Chief Who Made Up Story Was Charged With Theft 10 Years Ago

PERRYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A police chief who covered up an accidental shooting was charged with theft while in office 10 years earlier.

Months after resigning from the Morrow County Sheriff's Department on Nov. 24, 1991, Perrysville police Chief Tim Sommer was accused of using a sheriff's department credit card to buy gasoline for personal use, Morrow County Prosecutor Greg Perry said Friday.

In a plea bargain, Sommer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft, received a suspended six-month jail sentence and was fined and required to do community service, Perry said.

Now, Sommer faces possible dismissal after shooting himself in the leg while staging a traffic stop to cover up an earlier accidental shooting.

After investigators found holes in his story, Sommer admitted making up the tale, Ashland County Sheriff Wayne Risner said.

The Ashland Times-Gazette reported Friday that Sommer lied in his interview for the Perrysville job. Sommer covered up having a police record, his reason for quitting the Morrow County Sheriff's Department and about never having his wages garnisheed, the paper said.

The Times-Gazette said that in his Oct. 28, 1999, job interview, Sommer said he never had been accused of a crime.

According to a letter of resignation in Sommer's Morrow County personnel file, he quit to take a job in security. But in his Perrysville application, Sommer said he quit because of the "new sheriff," the Times-Gazette reported.

In his interview, he reportedly said his wages had never been attached. However, according to information in his Morrow County personnel file, Crawford County Municipal Court ordered Sommer's wages garnisheed in 1990 to satisfy a debt owed a loan company.

Also in 1990, Morrow County Common Pleas Court ordered part of his wages withheld to satisfy a child support order, the newspaper said.

A message seeking comment from Sommer was left at his home Friday. He has not been at work since the shooting March 19.

Perrysville Mayor Renee Mott said it was her understanding Sommer had undergone a thorough background check and no problems had been found.

On Wednesday, Mott sent a letter to Sommer's home saying she would ask for his firing at a village council meeting Monday.

"Then the council will either back my recommendation or say no," Mott said. "There will probably be a further investigation if they don't back me."

She said Ohio law forbids her from firing the police chief without the council's approval.

Risner said Sommer is the Perrysville police department's only full-time member of the 8-person force. The sheriff's department will cover Sommer's duties while he is gone.

Residents in the village about 60 miles northeast of Columbus said they were shocked that Sommer would lie about anything.

"I cannot for the life of me believe this happened," Alfred McKinney, 66, told The Columbus Dispatchfor a story Friday. "He just plain had to lose it.

"It's such a shame. He's always done such a fine job," said McKinney, who has lived in the village for 32 years.

Gloria DeWitt, 71, said Sommer was a regular at JR's Restaurant and Tavern, which she owns.

"He evidently had some problems we didn't know about," DeWitt said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)