Thompson Terminates Police Chief Amid Controversy
May 4, 2023 by John Karlovec

Thompson Township Trustees fired Police Chief Christopher DiDomenico last month while he remains under investigation for allegedly not being a certified police officer.

Thompson Township Trustees fired Police Chief Christopher DiDomenico last month while he remains under investigation for allegedly not being a certified police officer.

DiDomenico was hired July 5, 2022, as a “part-time police chief for the next two to three months at $18 per hour, up to 28 hours per week, no benefits,” according to minutes from the July 5 trustees meeting.

He replaced Bill Holbert, who resigned from the post, effective June 22, 2022, after serving as chief for four years.

DiDomenico worked as a lieutenant with XCalibre Protective Services from October 2017 until he was hired, according to his resume. From September 2001 until October 2006, he was a police officer with departments in Grand River, Timberlake and Wickliffe.

He completed an Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in July 2001, his resume said.

During the Nov. 7, 2022, trustees meeting, DiDomenico told them he had attended a newly appointed chief’s meeting in Columbus. Trustees then voted to make him a permanent part-time police chief.

DiDomenico was fired April 3, 2023, after less than 12 months on the job.

Trustee Erwin Leffel said looking at DiDomenico’s resume “after the fact” showed it was “not really complete.”

Leffel said he assumed Trustee Heather Moseman — who made the motion to hire DiDomenico and is the board liaison to the police department — had vetted DiDomenico.

“It’s unclear how she found him,” he said. “My assumption was — she’s an attorney — she knows what she’s doing.”

Moseman did not respond to two emails seeking comment on DiDomenico’s hiring, his job duties and title, or what background check, if any, was done prior to his hiring.

Efforts to reach DiDomenico for comment were unsuccessful.

Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said DiDomenico came to the sheriff’s office shortly after he was hired, in uniform, but without a gun.

“He was talking about getting L.E.A.D.S. access, so we checked and he couldn’t get it because he wasn’t a police officer,” Hildenbrand said, explaining L.E.A.D.S. is a statewide computerized network that provides data, such as driving records and criminal history checks, for law enforcement agencies.

Police officers in Ohio must complete an Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and DiDomenico’s expired in 2006, Hildenbrand said, adding if an officer has a break in service within a year, then he or she can complete updates with OPOTA.

“But, if it’s been more than two years, you have to take the entire academy over again,” he said. “You can’t carry a gun, obviously, in uniform.”

The sheriff said he heard reports DiDomenico was seen carrying a gun in uniform and telling people he was a police officer.

About two months ago, Hildenbrand said he and Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz were discussing the matter following a Geauga County Police Chiefs’ Association meeting when a lieutenant from the Ohio State Highway Patrol told them DiDomenico had been pulled over by a state trooper.

“He was being difficult and the trooper actually gave him a sobriety test,” Hildenbrand said, adding Flaiz has the body camera footage from the state patrol.

While DiDomenico passed the test, Hildenbrand said he was in uniform and the lieutenant told them DiDomenico had red and blue lights on his personal vehicle.

In addition, Hildenbrand said a police officer can go to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and use a police station address on the vehicle’s registration so that people cannot find out where the officer lives.

“Well, he had done that and then he represented to the state patrolman, you know, check my plates it (vehicle) belongs to Thompson Township,” the sheriff said. “It doesn’t. It belongs to him. It just has the police station address.”

DiDomenico was also seen during the March 22 search for missing Thompson woman Susan Taylor on Sidley Road.

“He has all the lights on on his car and they’re all flashing,” Hildenbrand said. “And he’s walking around with a gun on and a badge on his belt.”

Prosecutor’s office investigators learned DiDomenico had enrolled in a new police chiefs’ school in Columbus but was told he could not attend because he was not a police officer. He eventually was able to stay in the class after representing he was a police administrator.

However, under Ohio law, townships are not allowed to create a police administrator position.

Leffel said the township does not have — and never has had — an administrative chief position.

“In any of our discussions, (DiDomenico) was interim and then he was made police chief, nothing about administrative or anything like that,” Leffel said. “We’ve always had a chief.”

Hildenbrand said he and Flaiz attended an executive session during the April 3 trustees meeting, “and let the trustees know what was going on.”

“(The trustees) acknowledged that they knew he didn’t have an OPOTA certificate when they hired him,” Hildenbrand said. “They thought he could just go to school and then become one (police officer).”

Leffel said he did not know anything about the state patrol stop, DiDomenico’s vehicle registration, the red and blue lights or representations DiDomenico allegedly made at the new chiefs’ meeting until the April 3 meeting.

However, Leffel did see DiDomenico carrying a gun on his hip and a badge on his belt when he made his reports during trustees meetings and had received a complaint from a resident about one of the officers DiDomenico hired.

“It was like, ‘Please tell me you didn’t hire this particular guy,’ and I was like, what are you talking about,” Leffel said. “And then she told me the guy’s history. And then my neighbor across the road said, ‘Have you looked at the video of that guy?’”

Hildenbrand said the officer in question had been fired by the East Cleveland Police Department.

Leffel said the township put the officer on administrative leave and he recently resigned.

“We are going to accept his resignation tonight (May 1),” Leffel added.

Hildenbrand said he has offered to help Thompson any time it wants to hire a new police chief or any officers with a background check. He also has offered to do background checks on existing officers.

“I don’t think any background checks were ever done,” he said. “(The trustees) said, ‘OK, thank you,’ but we haven’t done any.”

Leffel confirmed nothing has been done since the offer was made.