Swiss Hills investigates instructors

Prosecutor: No criminal charges to be filed

WOODSFIELD — Following an investigation that detimend no criminal charges would be filed, Switzerland of Ohio Local School District officials hired a third party to investigate two Swiss Hills Career Center instructors for alleged violations of safety protocols.

In mid-March, Superintendent Robert Caldwell filed a criminal complaint with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office against heavy equipment operation instructors for allegedly using equipment outside the designated zone of operation and for taking firewood without permission, according to the police report.

The complaint also states that the use of the equipment outside the designated areas had caused damage to the property.

Detectives began the investigation by meeting with Swiss Hills Director Matt Unger, who told them the heavy equipment class has a designated work area located south of the school building. He said several trees were cut down and removed from the school property, and he had concerns regarding the equipment being operated by students outside the designated areas due to uneven terrain.

Unger then led detectives around the area in question, according to the report. After inspecting the area, detectives noted that there were areas on the property with orange traffic cones and caution tape designating specific sites for operations. They also reported that no large trees or timber appeared to be cut, damaged or removed.

According to the report, detectives then separately interviewed the instructors. Both denied taking any firewood off the property.

Both also said they had never been told by the administration of any particular “designated area” and that the cones and caution tape were placed by them on portions of the property for safety reasons. The report states that both instructors stressed that class safety was of the utmost importance, noting that they have daily safety meetings and students wear the proper gear prior to going outside for instruction.

After an investigation by the sheriff’s office was complete, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the report and found that no criminal intent could be proven.

However, some school district officials decided to move forward with a third party investigation into the heavy equipment class safety issues. During a board of education meeting last month, the board voted 4-1 to hire an outside investigator. Board President Ron Winkler was the only member to vote against hiring a private investigator. Board members Greg Schumacher, Sarah Smith, Bev Anderson and Jerry Gust voted in favor of the hiring.

“The reason I voted no is that the investigation was already done by the sheriff’s office, and I think they did a good job. I think it’s a witch hunt. The sheriff’s office did a thorough job with their investigation, and I didn’t think another investigation was necessary,” Winkler said of his decision.

Winkler added that he thought the decision to pursue an internal investigation would waste taxpayer money, something he said he opposes.

Winkler confirmed both instructors remain employed at the school but could not speak further on the matter at this time.

Caldwell could not be reached for comment on this report.

The board next meets at 6 p.m. June 10 at the board office, located at 304 Mill St., Woodsfield.


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