YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Youngstown State University has released the results of its investigation into the actions of former YSU Police Chief John Beshara, who was placed on administrative leave April 28.
The investigation centered on Beshara’s use of a company vehicle and a trip he took with another officer during a training program in Florida, according to the 36-page report released to WYTV on Wednesday.
YSU officials said they had evidence of “excessive fuel fill-ups” throughout the state and high mileage driven on the university’s Jeep Liberty vehicle.
The investigation began after Shannon Tirone, associate vice president for university relations, was made aware that Boardman Police were investigating a report of a man who impersonated Boardman’s police chief by asking a couple to pick up litter at the Boardman Steak n’ Shake. Tirone, who was Beshara’s supervisor, said the description of the suspect’s vehicle matched that of the university’s green Jeep Liberty that was used by Beshara.
Beshara was questioned about the incident, at first denying any knowledge and later admitting to ordering the couple to pick up litter, according to the investigation report. Beshara reportedly said he believed he had authority to make the couple pick up the litter because he was a Mahoning County Sheriff’s deputy, but denied saying he was the Boardman Police chief.
The university was also given receipts for gas fill-ups across the state, including as far as Seville and Columbus. Beshara averaged driving 98.7 miles per day in the company vehicle in October, which the university believed was excessive.
Beshara denied using the vehicle for personal trips, saying he often drove to visit “sister institutions,” although he could not recall the details of particular visits. He said he often drove around during his shift, which he said could account for the mileage on the vehicle.
Tirone emailed Beshara on March 24, 2016, telling him to keep the Jeep on university property when he was not working.
“I have a duty to tell you that, in my professional opinion, this action will cause my response to our campus in an emergency situation to be dramatically slowed, which could have varying negative results,” read a response from Beshara to Tirone later that day.
Beshara was also issued a copy of the University Vehicle Use Policy on April 14. Beshara said he had not received the policy prior to that.
On March 27 through April 1, Beshara attended a training session in Miami, Florida with YSU Police Officer William Rogner.
Rogner told investigators that the department had planned for him to attend the training session, but Beshara asked if he could come along. He told investigators that he felt uncomfortable with the request, but agreed because Beshara was his superior.
Even though Beshara would not be attending the training session with Rogner, his trip to Miami was approved by the university’s Ethics Commission on the basis that Beshara attending would not cost the university any additional money, according to the report.
Tirone said she took issue with Beshara taking his university vehicle to the Pittsburgh airport for the trip after receiving the directive to leave it at home while not working. She said Beshara told her he was on vacation, but he did not say he was going to Miami with Rogner. Tirone said she found out the company vehicle was in the airport’s parking lot after the two had left for the trip.
During the trip, Rogner upgraded the rental car to a BMW. Rogner said Beshara did not drive the vehicle and that the two agreed to pay for the additional costs. The expense of an additional $36 per day was submitted to YSU for reimbursement, however.
Beshara said the decision to upgrade the vehicle was made because Rogner was representing the university during training.
The report read:
When asked whether the University can afford the additional expense, Chief Beshara responded that he thinks the University pays its bills. When asked why a Chevy Cruze would not have been acceptable, Chief Beshara indicated that driving a BMW in Miami was a better decision than driving a Chevy Cruze because people drive fast in Miami, the BMW handles the roads better, and it is generally a better vehicle. He indicated it looks better for the University to show up to a training seminar in a BMW versus a Chevy Cruze.
The university said the hotel was also changed and cost an additional $55 per night when compared to the discounted-rate hotel through the training program. Rogner said Beshara wanted an oceanfront view. Beshara denied that he had requested the room, saying that the hotel had been booked by his administrative assistant.
The report concluded that Beshara should be disciplined due to his use of the university’s vehicle to go to the Pittsburgh airport, despite being warned against driving it while he was not working.
The report also concluded that the trip cost the university more money due to Beshara attending, and that he went against the university’s Conflict of Interest Policy when he asked a subordinate if he could go on the trip.
A response to the allegations filed by Beshara said he was not provided proper notice of the investigation and that the conclusions “omit or overlook several critical points and, in some instances, reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of law enforcement.”
He added that he often works throughout the week and remains on-call. During the winter of 2015-2016, he said his wife became terminally ill, causing him to drive back and forth from work to his home to check on her before she passed away in February 2016.
As part of his separation agreement with YSU on May 31, Beshara agreed to repay more than $400 in expenses from the trip and not seek any legal action against the university. In exchange, the results of the investigation will not be included in his personnel file and the university agreed to give him “neutral reviews” for job references.