AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Due to allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer and "potential criminal misconduct," former Akron Police Chief James Nice was asked to resign his position Sunday.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan outlined allegations that Nice made "derogatory comments" about fellow officers, had inappropriate contact with a city employee, and may have been involved in potential criminal misconduct in relation to an ongoing case involving his nephew.
Horrigan said that Nice "lost his ability to lead the department."
Nice's attorney, Michael Callahan, said the criminal allegations are the ones he and his client are most concerned about.
"He absolutely denies [those allegations] and we're going to aggressively fight that because he's got a decorated career in law enforcement, and that's just not something that someone like that is going to tolerate," said Callahan.
He said he wasn't familiar with what exactly those criminal allegations entail, but he did say in reference to Nice's case, "I know the case is pending and I know it has to do with cars and title and this of that nature but don't know any of the specifics."
Major Kenneth Ball, a 26-year veteran of the APD, was announced as the interim chief of police.
Ball told the media that he was angry at the revelations Monday.
"It is an embarrassment. It doesn't meet the standard of the Akron Police Department and unfortunately this organization and members of this team will suffer," said Ball. He went on to say that the allegations seem out of character, and that officers within the department did not see an ongoing issue with the chief before this weekend.
"The chief did not act like that in any way in front of the staff. There was no way for us to anticipate anything that's occurred," said Ball. "It wouldn't have been tolerated. It's not a part of the culture of the Akron Police Department. It's an embarrassment to our profession, and there was not any evidence of that publicly, or even within closed doors, or within his close core of leaders."
Ball said that the alleged derogatory comments occurred during a "casual conversation" on Friday and were reported to him. He, in turn, reported the allegations to Horrigan on Saturday. The mayor then asked for Nice's resignation on Sunday, which he received Sunday afternoon.
Officials wouldn't go into details about the potential inappropriate contact with another city employee or the potential criminal misconduct involving that ongoing case with his nephew Joe Nice.
Several city council members who were at Monday's press conference were surprised by what they learned.
"I'm disappointed," said council president Marilyn Keith. "The chief that I knew wouldn't be in this situation today, that's the chief that I knew." She said that although surprised, she trusts the mayor's decision to ask for Nice's resignation.
Council member Tara Samples echoed Keith's surprise, saying she had a "good relationship" with Nice, but also said she wants to see what the investigation turns up.
"The one thing we don't want to do is rush to judgment because now we're using the media to try charge and convict Chief Nice and I don't think we should be doing that right now," said Samples. "Let's let the prosecutors do their jobs and see what they come up with."
The county prosecutor will handle the investigation into Nice's conduct. Criminal charges are possible, said Horrigan. Callahan said that he hadn't been advised when the investigation will be completed.
Callahan, Horrigan and Ball all stressed their confidence in the APD, Callahan said that Nice was confident that Ball would effectively lead the department.
Recently, the police department faced criticism after a 17-year-old committed suicide in the back of a police cruiser, but Mayor Horrigan reiterated that the two investigations are not connected.