Disciplinary hearing planned next week for Liberty fire captain accused in drug investigation

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Capt. Cathy Macchione faces the possibility of a further demotion and unpaid suspension

Cathy Macchione, Liberty Twp. Firefighter

LIBERTY TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – A disciplinary hearing will be held Monday to determine whether Liberty Fire Capt. Cathy Macchione will be further demoted following accusations of drug use and the trading of drugs inside the fire department.

According to disciplinary files that WKBN obtained after a public records request by Reporter Nadine Grimley, Macchione was aware that other firefighters were trading prescription medication and she didn’t report the activity.

The allegations came to light following an investigation of Firefighter John Beard’s suspected overdose death on April 12. According to the documents from the internal investigation, investigators found that Beard had texted Macchione asking if she had any spare “Smurf berries,” which Macchione admitted was what she called her prescription Klonopin.

The documents allege that Macchione responded to Beard, “Lol. I will see what I have here.”

The documents also allege that four months later, Beard texted former fire Lt. Justin Graham that he was going to ask Macchione if she had any “smurf berries.”

Monday’s hearing will address whether Macchione violated the department’s drug and alcohol policy by not reporting Beard’s requests for drugs to the chief. The hearing will also address allegations that she provided those drugs to others.

The documents suggest that Macchione was providing pills to others, though Macchione told investigators she was only joking in text messages that she sent about the pills to other firefighters. She added that she never gave the pills to Beard, though investigators said in an interview, Macchione mentioned that he knew they were in her purse. Investigators believed that she provided them to Beard, according to the documents.

Macchione, the department’s second-highest in command, has already been demoted to Captain from Captain Inspector. After Monday’s hearing, she faces the possibility of being demoted down to firefighter and ineligible for a promotion for two years. She also faces a five-day unpaid suspension.

Two township firefighters — Lt. Justin Graham and Lt. Josh Cleland — have already resigned, and Capt. Chris Olson is retiring with a separation agreement as a result of the investigation.

There is also an ongoing criminal investigation; investigators have searched Cleland’s home in Vienna, reporting that multiple guns and illicit items were found.

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