Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John may be in hot water with the City of Columbus after reportedly testing positive for having alcohol in his system.
St. John is required to submit to sobriety tests as part of an agreement he made with the city in December of 2008 when he took a voluntary leave of absence to deal with what was reported to be alcohol dependency issues. Several trusted sources said that St. John’s Blood Alcohol Level(BAC) when tested was below the legal driving limit of .08 (St.John was not driving when tested).
According to numerous sources, city officials ordered the testing to be done Friday, June 17th, shortly after St. John had called in sick to a Civil Service Commission hearing involving now retired CPD Lieutenant John Pevey. The surprising absence at the high profile hearing prompted city officials to order St. John to submit to the test that afternoon. [It should be noted that all sources said that St.John was not in uniform and not driving when he took the test-CK]
The hearing began on time at 1:30pm, but was delayed shortly after 2:00pm when presiding officials noticed St.John’s absence. After some discussion with the commission it was decided that the hearing would continue without St.John, and that he would be deposed at a later date. St. John is scheduled to give that deposition in the Pevey case on July 14th. Sources close to the city said that no immediate action was taken against St. John after the question of whether he was actually “working” for the City of Columbus when he had alcohol in his system had arose. St. John called in sick and was allegedly at home at the time he was ordered to take the test. The agreement between the City of Columbus and St. John is one of zero-tolerance in regards to alcohol, but the language of the agreement (which has not been released to the public) reportedly may be worded somewhat vaguely as to whether he is legally allowed to drink on his own time.
St. John began a previously scheduled two-week vacation just after the test was administered, but did appear at Columbus Police headquarters several times during the time off. St.John returned to work from his vacation this week and made an uneventful appearance at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
City officials still have not decided if any action will be taken, with the issue still hinging on the interpretation of St.John’s agreement. If St. John were to be suspended or terminated, many sources assume the interim Chief would once again be Assistant Chief Joe Johnson. Johnson has thrice served in that capacity- twice after his superior Chief left the position, and once when St.John was on leave. Assistant Chief Johnson settled a suit against the city that he filed after not being promoted in favor of St.John in 2007. According to sources, Joe Johnson is allowed to apply for the Chief’s position if it would become available. [I do believe he would not be able to file suit if he did not get the job, as most legal settlements preclude the parties from further litigation-CK]
Neither City leadership or the Columbus Police Department were able to comment on the matter.