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Tioga borough council’s president resigns, attorney general says state was violated

Timothy Loehmann, as he was sworn into the Tioga Police Department. FACEBOOK PHOTO

TIOGA — Steve Hazlett, the embattled borough council president of Tioga, resigned from the position Friday as the hiring of police officer Timothy Loehmann came under the scrutiny of the state Attorney General’s office.

Tioga Mayor David Wilcox confirmed the resignation to the Sun-Gazette Friday night.

Hazlett was instrumental in the hiring of Loehmann, the officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 2014. Loehmann withdrew his application Thursday after public outcry.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s office provided the Sun-Gazette with a letter sent by the office to Tioga’s municipal government. The letter asserts that Tioga council members failed to perform the necessary background checks on Loehmann.

“Records show that this check was not performed when Tioga Borough hired Loehmann,” the letter states. “To be clear, failure to thoroughly check a potential hire’s background, including searching the database for any past disciplinary activities, is a violation of state law.”

According to Wilcox, Hazlett and his wife, Marybess Hazlett, who is also on borough council, turned their letters of resignation in to the borough solicitor Jeffrey Loomis on Friday. While the resignations could be withdrawn by either member before Tuesday’s emergency meeting, it is expected that both resignations will be approved by the remaining board members Al Brooks, Bob Wheeler, Holly Irwin, Doreen Burnside and Bill Preston.

“I am happy that for the first time since I’ve been the mayor, Steve Hazlett has made the right decision. He did what was right,” Wilcox said.

Steve Hazlett told the Sun-Gazette Thursday that he and others, including Wilcox, were aware of the officer’s background when they decided to hire him as a police officer, the first officer in the borough in around 18 months. That is disputed by Wilcox, who says he and Brooks were kept in the dark about Loehmann’s background.

“This town needs a fresh start,” Wilcox said.

“It’s no surprise that Steve Hazlett resigned given his atrocious, contemptible conduct in mocking Tamir Rice’s death and foisting on the borough an officer with a professional record of being emotionally unstable, lying and killing a child,” Subodh Chandra, an attorney for the Rice family, said. “Good riddance.”

Chandra was critical not only of the decision to attempt to hire Loehmann but of a social media post Hazlett made a few years ago that surfaced in the wake of the hiring. The post mocked the intelligence of the slain 12-year-old.

Wilcox told the Sun-Gazette that he is not done looking for answers on just how this cop was hired. The council’s emergency meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Tioga Borough Office. Steve Hazlett did not respond to requests for comment.

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