A police chief in Fairfield, Ohio, was recently investigated about a pair of "immature" and "unprofessional" acts that happened more than a decade ago involving him exposing himself to fellow officers.
Police Chief Steve Maynard was promoted from the department’s operations commander lieutenant to police chief on Feb. 26. He was the top choice among five finalists for the job.
Before Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling promoted Maynard, he ordered an investigation of rumors that Maynard had exposed himself to other officers while off duty when he was a single officer in his mid-20s. The officers Maynard exposed himself to did not file a police report nor did they take any action at the time.
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Investigators talked to the witnesses and the report said they weren’t “offended at all, then or now.”
At the time of the incident, Maynard was not in a supervisory position.
Wendling was told of the incidents recently when then-Police Chief Mike Dickey, who was retiring, was told of the old story by one of his officers.
“I had never heard the rumor,” said Dickey, who was hired as chief the same day Maynard was hired as a police officer. “I have known Steve Maynard for 19 years. I think he is a person of character and I have the utmost faith in his ability to lead this department.”
The first incident was in 2003, when, possibly “in response to teasing or baiting,” Maynard flashed two fellow police officers during a party at a fellow officer’s home, according to the investigation by Cincinnati attorney Doug Duckett. The second incident happened a year or two later in Washington, D.C., when Maynard took vacation time to accompany the Fairfield color guard on a trip.
According to Duckett's report, Maynard said he does not remember exposing himself while going out "partying" with his fellow police officers while in Washington and that if one of the officers there said it happened, "it probably did."
There were two other incidents alleged by officers -- one that could have been considered criminal -- but the investigator said the alleged victims’ accounts were not credible and deemed to be hearsay. Maynard also “strongly denies” those accusations but admitted he did expose himself.
The investigation began with a December 2017 meeting with Duckett, Wendling, Dickey and the assistant city manager,Greg Preece. Duckett spent three days interviewing several officers.
Maynard was hired in 1999 and had worked his way through the ranks from a patrol officer to the vice unit and then as the department’s operations commander.
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Wendling said despite the results of the investigation, Maynard was still the best candidate in his opinion for the job.
“There was one other candidate I considered very seriously, but in the end I still felt that Steve was the better candidate for a number of reasons,” he said. “He knows and really understands the department. He continues to have broad support within the department, broad support within the community, broad support among elected officials and among the staff.”
Wendling said he also chose Maynard because they “also share a very similar vision for where the police department needs to go.”
“It’s a very good department, but just like any department it has room to grow in certain areas. We share that perspective,” Wendling said. “I know the man, and I know what his strengths are, and I know what his weaknesses are, and I feel his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses, and that’s not something I know with an external candidate.”
Maynard said he’s “certainly not proud of it,” but believes he has grown up since that time and “I’m not the person I was 15 years ago.” He admitted to Duckett that he “partied hard” in his mid-20s and has backed off since then. He is now married with two children.
“I think that I’ve taken the right steps, and to what Mark said, I’ve worked my way up the ladder of the police department and I understand that what I believe are the right steps for the police department. As I said before, I care a lot about this community, and leading the police department -- it’s important to me, and I think I’ll do an excellent job representing the police department.”
While Wendling made the decision, Duckett did write in his report that the city manager asked if the investigated incidents “would make selecting Stephen Maynard to be the next police chief of Fairfield inappropriate or unwise.”
“I would not view Stephen Maynard’s immature and foolish choices and actions more than a decade ago to be fatal to his candidacy as police chief now,” Duckett wrote. “People, including police officers, can mature and grow, and they can be better and stronger than the worst mistakes they make early in a career.”