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Meister, Village agree to enter into mediation

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The Village of Yellow Springs has agreed to enter into mediation with Yellow Springs Police Corporal Dave Meister, according to Village Solicitor Chris Conard this week, regarding a dispute over proposed disciplinary actions that has lasted more than a month.

“The Village agreed to participate in a process that can be conducive to reaching a resolution,” Conard wrote in an email this week, stating that mediation was requested by Meister through his attorney, David Duwel.

“If we can get a resolution this way, that’s a good outcome,” Duwel said on Tuesday. “Mediation allows for more innovative solutions.”

The mediation is expected to take place within the next two weeks, Duwel said. The two sides plan to use the Village Mediation program, with an independent mediator conducting the process.

In a phone interview this week, Meister said he hopes the mediation can result in the disciplinary recommendations being dropped.

“I’m hoping this can resolve these problems and we can move forward,” he said.

The Village, represented by Solicitor Conard, and Duwel, representing Meister, have been in informal conversation for several weeks regarding disciplinary actions recommended by Police Chief Brian Carlson, which Meister has contested. 

Mediation will take the place of a pre-
disciplinary hearing, which Meister had requested and which was originally scheduled for June 29, then postponed to mid-July. However, that hearing was also postponed and the two attorneys have since been attempting to reach a compromise solution.

“Both sides have tried hard to resolve this,” Duwel said. “We thought we should bring in a neutral party.”

The recommended disciplines followed an internal department investigation into two March traffic stops by Meister. Both stops involved drivers with previous convictions who may have been inebriated. While Meister in both cases took away the driver’s ability to continue driving that night, he was faulted by Carlson for, in one case, not pressing the driver to see if she was intoxicated, and, in the second case, allowing an inebriated person to walk a block home and not charging him with operating a moving vehicle while intoxicated, or OVI.

In both cases, Meister used his discretion to find a solution that seemed good for both the individual and the community, according to Duwel, who stressed that Chief Carlson has advocated for officers using discretion. 

The original recommended disciplinary actions included Meister being demoted from corporal to patrol officer, three days of unpaid suspension, a 12-month probationary period and a performance plan that included a last-chance clause that, according to Duwel previously, would allow the Village to fire Meister easily.

Many villagers considered the recommended discipline too harsh, and a public protest took place in late June, shortly after they were announced. Meister also protested the disciplinary actions, saying he was being unfairly targeted in the department.

However, according to Carlson in an earlier interview with the News, the discipline was substantial because both incidents involved public safety.

In late June, the Village revised its disciplinary proposals, eliminating the probationary period and shortening the time without pay and the performance plan. However, Meister said at the time he could not agree to the revised proposals .

All proposed disciplinary actions continue to be on the table, according to Duwel this week.

“They’re on the table until they’re taken off the table,” he said.

Complicating the process is the launch a week ago of a second departmental investigation into Meister. That investigation focuses on two more recent traffic stops by Meister, one involving juveniles and the second involving an inebriated man on a bicycle. No other information is available because the investigation is ongoing, Duwel said this week.

According to Carlson last week, he could not comment on the second investigation. because it’s ongoing. 

The incidents included in the second investigation will likely also be covered in the mediation process, Duwel said. Conard agreed this week that all of the incidents involving Meister would likely be addressed, as Meister has requested that both investigations be covered in a single process.

Overall, Meister is looking for more guidance from Carlson and the department regarding the appropriate use of officer discretion, Duwel said this week.

“When you allow discretion, is there a range of responses that are allowed?” Duwel said. “When you give the officers discretion, it makes it harder in some ways. Dave is looking for more guidance, to have a better understanding going forward. He wants to create a roadmap for future success, not just for himself but the police department.”

According to Conard, if the mediation process is not successful, a pre-disciplinary hearing could still be held.

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