Liberty firefighters drug investigation started after deadly overdose, report says

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Police raided one of the former firefighter's houses Wednesday night

TRUMBULL CO., Ohio (WKBN) – Investigators say a raid Thursday is connected to shocking allegations against three Liberty Township firefighters.

Township leaders are calling the investigation’s findings disappointing and unfortunate. And it’s far from over.

Investigators accuse 3 Liberty Twp. firefighters of using and trading drugs on the job

“Obviously, it was disappointing and very disconcerting, and we’re extremely upset that this happened and was happening under our watch,” said trustee Arnie Clebone.

A fourth firefighter is facing disciplinary action. On Thursday, Capt. Inspector Cathy Macchione was demoted and placed on paid administrative leave.

Township attorney Cherry Poteet said disciplinary charges against Macchione are pending an ongoing investigation into her alleged involvement.

According to an internal investigative summary report released by the township, the investigation started after Liberty firefighter John Beard’s apparent overdose death on April 12.

“For his family, I feel like we had a duty to make sure that we followed the facts wherever they led,” said trustee Devon Stanley. “Unfortunately, the facts led to what seemed to be systemic bad behavior.”

As Liberty police started looking into the actions of other firefighters surrounding Beard’s death, they said they discovered drug activity within the fire department.

The report claims two lieutenants — Josh Cleland and Justin Graham — not only used drugs on the job, but they bought and sold them, too.

Disciplinary charges against Capt. Chris Olson accuse him of denying knowing what was going on. Investigators say text messages show he not only knew, but participated.

Cleland and Graham have since turned in their resignations and Olson retired.

“We made swift and immediate action to ask these folks to resign,” Stanley said. “It was either fire or resign.”

On Wednesday night, investigators searched Cleland’s home on Warner Road in Vienna. Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force commander Larry McLaughlin said inside, investigators found multiple guns and other illicit items.

McLaughlin said they’re still pursuing a criminal investigation. Ultimately, their findings will be presented to a Trumbull County grand jury.

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