September 18, 2003


Village police officer, facing disciplinary hearing, resigns

Josh Cernetic, the Yellow Springs police officer who has been placed on paid administrative leave since July, resigned from the police force last week.

Cernetic submitted his resignation in a letter to Village Manager Rob Hillard dated Sept. 9. His resignation was effective Sept. 12.

Village Manager Rob Hillard said on Tuesday that Cernetic’s decision “closes this issue for both parties, the Village of Yellow Springs and Mr. Cernetic.”

Cernetic did not return a phone call seeking comment. His attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Dayton, declined to comment.

Up to the time of his resignation, Cernetic’s future employment with the Village was in doubt. Interim Police Chief John Grote had recommended that the Village fire Cernetic after Grote determined that the officer violated eight department rules, including the use of unnecessary force. Grote said that Cernetic’s actions, “particularly his issues involving abuse of power,” eroded any trust that the public, the Police Department and Grote had in the officer.

“I’m sorry we had to go through this, but things couldn’t keep going on like they were,” Grote said on Tuesday. “We had to make a change.”

After Grote made his recommendation, the Village had scheduled a pre-disciplinary hearing for Cernetic. Because Cernetic resigned, the hearing was canceled, Hillard said.

A settlement agreement between the Village and Cernetic states that Cernetic’s resignation should not be construed as an admission of “any wrongful act against, or any liability to, Mr. Cernetic or any other person.”

In his letter to Cernetic accepting the officer’s resignation, Hillard noted that because a hearing was not held, there was no opportunity to verify Grote’s report and recommendation.

Cernetic, who is 28, was hired by the Village in 2000.

He had been on paid leave from his job with the Police Department since July 4, the day after he was involved in an altercation with a Yellow Springs High School student in the municipal parking lot on Corry Street. Grote conducted an investigation into that incident and found that Cernetic used “excessive” force against the teen.

In his statement on the incident, Cernetic denied using force against the youth, saying that the teenager would not follow his orders and that when he placed his hand on the youth, he lost his grip, causing the young man to fall to the ground.

Grote’s investigation also found other incidents he found troubling, including another incident in which Cernetic allegedly used excessive force against a local juvenile this summer.

Grote called the situation with Cernetic unfortunate and difficult. “We’re going to move on and hopefully Josh can move on, too,” he said. Grote said that the department now plans to hire at least one officer, though he is searching for both full-time and part-time personnel.

“We have vacancies and everybody in the department is working hard,” he said.

The Police Department is down three officers right now, including Cernetic. Earlier this year the Village fired officer Matt Williams, though Williams has appealed that decision. This month Jim Miller officially retired as the police chief, though he had been placed on paid administrative leave in March.

—Robert Mihalek