Firm founder and criminal defense lawyer, Brad Koffel, recently helped his client, a former Columbus deputy fire chief, negotiate a plea deal against charges for dereliction of duty. The retired chief was a firefighter for almost three decades, 14 years of which he spent as Union President, protecting “the careers and reputations of 1600 men and women…a tremendously rewarding experience that frequently put [him] at odds with City Hall.” Though he pled guilty, he and Koffel continue to insist he did nothing to warrant the damage to his reputation and career that have since followed.
The Alleged Crime
Koffel’s client was convicted of one misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty. According to the 64-page investigative report, he cost the city nearly half a million dollars in two years by falsifying his payroll. Allegedly, he banked hundreds of hours of time through inappropriate use of Company Business Vacancy (CBV), the code indicating an employee is working, but not in their current position. The investigation pointed to misuse of this code as one of the main methods he used to get paid redundantly.
The defendant’s high rank played a role in the trial’s outcome because his CBV time triggered a “domino effect [of vacancies that needed to] be filled by employees working at premium pay or overtime.” According to the prosecutors, Koffel’s client made retroactive changes to his payroll during the investigation.
The Client’s Defense
Attorney Koffel explained that “the City of Columbus never paid [his client] for work that he didn’t do...He did not have an intent to deprive the City of Columbus. This is just simply a function of accounting for his time, and he had a lot of accumulated time.” Along with other fire department officials, the defense cited the antiquated time management system as the true issue, rather than the alleged greed of the system’s users.
“I flatly deny any assertion that I was paid money that I was not owed,” the former chief explained in a statement after Wednesday’s court appearance. “How I accounted for my time is exactly how all deputy chiefs have done it for years. Ironically, this includes one of my own accusers.” According to Koffel, the city chose to pin this use of the system on his client, rather than hold everyone accountable or fix the system entirely.
In the defendant’s statement, he called this a “political hit on [his] character.” He explains that, throughout his time as a firefighter and Union President, he consistently fulfilled his duties and acted with loyalty, commitment, and professionalism.
Koffel negotiated a plea deal for his client. Charged with one misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty, his client was forced to retire. His sentence includes one year of probation and nearly $60,000 in restitution to the City of Columbus. However, the city agreed to not pursue civil litigation or any other legal actions following the deal.
According to the prosecuting attorney, Koffel’s client has “now been convicted of a crime for his actions. [The City] believes that’s an appropriate resolution.”
In response to the investigation, the fire department is now considering the following changes:
- Fixing the time management system
- Cutting ties with Task Force 1
But these changes cannot be made until the investigation is over. The client’s superiors, another chief and assistant chief, are currently under investigation as well, but their administrative hearings have not been scheduled.
The Department of Public Safety asked Koffel’s client to return his badge, dress uniform, and helmet, but the former chief has refused this demand. “You are not getting those,” he said. “Your pettiness ended there.”
Our attorneys at Koffel Brininger Nesbitt have served more than 15,000 clients. For each client, we devise our legal strategy from scratch because we understand that every case is unique and demands meticulous attention to detail. If you are facing the threat of a devastating conviction, you need our firm on your side. Call (614) 675-4845 today or schedule your consultation online so we can begin planning your defense as soon as possible.