Alcohol reportedly played a role in the recent demotion and seven-month paid suspension of a Delaware County sheriff’s deputy, according to an investigation report released earlier this week by the sheriff’s office.
Jonathan Burke, 41, was found to have violated four department policies in 2015, the report states.
After a seven-month investigation and interviews with dozens of witnesses, officials from the sheriff’s office concluded that Burke, 41, violated four policies: conduct toward the sheriff, supervisors and co-workers; conduct while on and off duty; drug and alcohol use; and personal use of social media.
The investigation began in June 2015 after officials from the sheriff’s office received several complaints about Burke’s behavior.
Burke, who earns $77,000 annually, was placed on paid administrative on July 17, 2015, while the internal investigation was conducted. The investigation concluded earlier this month.
Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin on March 4 demoted Burke from his position as sergeant and suspended him without pay for three days.
According to the investigation report, on June 1, 2015, the sheriff’s office received a complaint from a deputy about off-duty and alcohol-related misconduct by Burke. The deputy said she had received a photo of Burke via the social-media tool Snapchat. The photo depicted Burke driving a vehicle with a beer in his hand.
Then, on June 20, 2015, a civilian called the sheriff’s office to report he had been driven off the road by a possible drunken driver in a truck. The man followed the truck to a driveway and a sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the scene. The driveway was at Burke’s residence and Burke’s truck was in the driveway, according to the report. However, Burke’s son and girlfriend told deputies he was sleeping and had been for a while. The deputy did not speak to Burke that day but a report was filed.
On July 8, 2015, the sheriff’s office received a written complaint from Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski regarding Burke’s conduct while he was off-duty at the St. Mary’s Festival on June 19. Burke was rowdy and disruptive at the festival and appeared to be intoxicated, according to the complaint. Burke also had a confrontation with a Delaware police officer who was working special duty at the festival and who threatened to arrest Burke. Burke reportedly performed a high karate kick at the festival, according to Delaware officers.
On July 11, 2015, the sheriff’s office received a call from a citizen who reported that a man was consuming alcohol at the baseball field at Buckeye Valley North Elementary School and drove away in a truck with an open container. The caller gave deputies the license plate of the truck and it was registered to Burke.
Details of the demotion were not specified in Martin’s disciplinary report to Burke.
“I expect more from members of this office,” Martin writes. “Our community holds you, as a law enforcement official, to a higher standard of professionalism, and I expect you to improve. If you do not improve, I will continue you through the progressive disciplinary process.”
Martin also writes that, after Burke was suspended on July 17, 2015, he attempted to use his position as a sergeant in the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office to influence an Union County sheriff’s deputy while that deputy was investigating a car accident in which Burke’s girlfriend was involved. Martin said that behavior goes against direct orders Burke was given when he was placed on leave.
During the investigation, Burke was defended by a lawyer from the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
This is not Burke’s first suspension in his more than a decade-long career at the sheriff’s office.
In May 2015, Burke was suspended for one day after he attended his son’s baseball game for 3½ hours, while on duty.
That suspension was just months after he was suspended for leaving a loaded firearm unattended on a stage at Buckeye Valley Middle School while he coached his son’s basketball team in February 2015.
Burke has a number of other notes placed in his disciplinary record for violations of sheriff’s office policy, including driving while talking on a cellphone in 2010, acting unprofessionally at a training class in 2010, backing his cruiser into a mailbox in 2008, taking a cruiser for a special-duty assignment without authorization in 2005, leaving his car in gear and letting it roll into a wall in 2005, as well as several complaints about his attitude and demeanor.