YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Barberton Law Department recommended last June that charges should not be filed against an investigator accused of failing to follow up on sexual assault investigations.
The recommendation was revealed Thursday during a hearing in municipal court for former city police Lt. Brian Flynn, who was charged with 14 counts of dereliction of duty, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Flynn, who was head of the unit in the department that investigates crimes against children, is accused of failing to follow through on several investigations between November 2020 and February 2021.
City officials said Flynn was given tips by the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit but never followed through. He had been on paid administrative leave since March 25, 2021. He was fired after the charges were filed in October.
His lawyer, Paul Siegferth Jr., said he found out about the recommendation but when he asked the Law Department and Law Director Jeff Limbian to provide him with a copy of it, his request was refused.
An internal investigation was first done by the police department. After that investigation, detectives with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office conducted a criminal investigation.
Summit County officials investigated the case because city officials were having trouble finding an outside investigator who was not directly or indirectly involved in any of the cases.
When the criminal investigation was done and the results were given to the Law Department, they gave the results to officials in Barberton and asked them to review the case.
Siegferth managed to get copies of the email with the recommendation through public record requests he filed with both Barberton and the city, but he never received the email through discovery. He asked Visiting Judge Mark Frost to compel the city to provide him with the email.
Judge Frost said he was not sure why he would have to make such a ruling because Siegferth already has the email.
Assistant City Prosecutor James Vivo said he would stipulate that the email was legitimate, but he said it was never turned over because the email is hearsay. He said if introduced at trial, the person who wrote it would have to testify about the contents of the email.
Vivo said he had offered to make a copy of the email he has and provide it to Siegferth, but Siegferth did not want that.
Judge Frost did grant Siegferth’s motion, telling Vivo to make a copy of the email for Siegferth and it would be up to Siegferth to accept the copy.
Siegferth said the email recommended no criminal charges be filed against Flynn. Instead, it said the case should be handled through administrative actions.
Siegferth has also asked that any evidence collected during the investigation that may have violated Flynn’s Garrity Rights be excluded. Garrity Rights protect public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during investigatory interviews conducted by their employers.
Brian Breeden, the detective with Summit County who investigated the case, told Vivo under direct examination that because of Flynn’s Garrity Rights, he could not use any statements he made to internal affairs investigators at the police department.
Breeden said he conducted his investigation by conducting his own interviews and reviewing emails by the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, who forwarded the tips that Flynn is accused of not investigating.
As part of his investigation, Breeden also received emails from the city police department, but he said he disregarded any that would have statements in them by Flynn that were made to investigators.
Siegferth asked Breeden about a dozen emails that contained Flynn’s responses during different phases of the investigation. Breeden said he could remember one email specifically and vaguely remembered two other emails, but he set them aside because he is not allowed to use them in a criminal investigation.
Judge Frost is expected to issue a ruling soon on Siegferth’s Garrity request.