Former Liberty Twp. firefighter files lawsuit against Mahoning Co. Drug Task Force

Local News

In the lawsuit, Cleland is asking for his property returned and monetary damages

Liberty firefighters Cleland, Graham and Olson

Left to right: Lt. Josh Cleland, Lt. Justin Graham, Capt. Chris Olson (WKBN)

VIENNA TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – A former Liberty Township firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the Mahoning County Drug Task Force, who searched his home during a drug investigation.

Investigators searched Cleland’s home on Warner Road back in May, where officials said they found multiple guns and illicit items.

The investigation stemmed from accusations of drug use and the trading of drugs inside the fire department.

Investigators accuse 3 Liberty Twp. firefighters of using and trading drugs on the job

Cleland filed a lawsuit against the Mahoning County Drug Task Force on July 1, claiming that search warrants were not based on reasonable suspicion and should not have been granted.

The complaint states that a cell phone, iPads, cash, vehicles, watches, firearms and prescription pills were taken during the raid. It claims that some of the items taken during the search were not related to alleged crimes being investigated.

The lawsuit also said it was clear that the items taken were legally owned, excluding a bottle of prescription pills that were not identified. It alleges that Cleland’s property is being held by investigators to harass him.

In the lawsuit, Cleland is asking for his property returned and monetary damages.

According to an internal investigative summary report released by the township, the investigation started after Liberty firefighter John Beard’s apparent overdose death on April 12.

As Liberty police started looking into the actions of other firefighters surrounding Beard’s death, they said they discovered drug activity within the fire department.

The report claimed two lieutenants — Cleland and Justin Graham — not only used drugs on the job, but they bought and sold them, too

Disciplinary charges against Capt. Chris Olson accuse him of denying knowing what was going on. Investigators say text messages show he not only knew, but participated.

Cleland and Graham have since resigned and Olson retired.

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

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