Former Ottawa County Sheriff Robert Bratton said he will plead guilty to a single charge of theft in office and will resign his current position as Genoa police chief.
Bratton, 60, is accused of mishandling $5,000 in federal Furtherance of Justice Funds between 2008 and 2011 for personal spending during his tenure as Ottawa County sheriff. He served as sheriff from 2004 to 2011.
“I made a mistake. I admit I made a mistake,” Bratton said, “And I will go into court and I will sit down and I will plead guilty and I will no longer be able to be a police officer.”
An information charge was filed Thursday against Bratton in U.S. District Court in Toledo. He is scheduled to appear at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 29. A conviction in federal court means Bratton will be tagged a felon and he will no longer be able to possess a gun. With that, he said, he must resign his post as Genoa police chief.
Bratton said he intends to remain chief until 4 p.m. Monday when he will submit his resignation letter to Genoa Mayor Mark Williams. He plans to use the weekend to get the office ready to turn over to another and remove his personal items. Williams could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Village Administrator Kevin Gladden said he was saddened by the event.
“The village, for its part, wishes him good luck. It did not affect his work here. He did a good job for our department,” Gladden said.
Village council, which rescheduled its first meeting of the year to Jan. 13 because of the snowstorm and will address the resignation letter then, Gladden said. The next in command at the police department, Sgt. Todd Mocniak, will temporarily take over chief duties.
Details of the mishandled money came to light a couple of years ago when the Ohio auditor’s office determined that Bratton had wrongly spent nearly $5,000 – some in cash and the remainder in credit card expenses – on personal items including uniforms, prescription medicine and Cedar Point tickets.
The Furtherance of Justice is to be used to help cover costs of official law enforcement duties. Revenues come from the federal government but are administered by the state. In the past, Bratton said, he had spent the money on dozens of purchases, from meals for inmates on work detail in the aftermath of the 2010 tornado to gift cards distributed to various personnel over the years.
Following the audit, Bratton paid back $7,214 in February 2012, which included the costs of the investigation. He thought, at the time, that was the end of it.
“I sat right there with the auditor’s office attorney during the whole thing and he told me that he did not find anything criminal. He said this was a civil infraction,” Bratton said.
Bratton said he was surprised to learn a year and half ago that the case had been reopened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. He contacted a lawyer, who contacted the federal agencies and confirmed a new investigation was underway.
The fact that the charge was filed in federal court concerns him.
“Thirty-eight years in law enforcement and I am thrown into federal court,” he said. “You wonder what’s going on.”
He said he realizes the severity of the charges against him at this level and the repercussions, but he doesn’t understand though why the charge wasn’t filed at a lower court since he had already admitted to the problem years ago and paid the money back.
That consideration had been given to other sheriffs across the state in similar situations in the past.
“But I am not going to sit and debate those cases. I understand the section of the law and wording of the charge against me -- and the severity. I am not an idiot. But I am not going to spend the next two years in court saying I didn’t do it. No, I did it and I admitted it. I’ll take my punishment. I’ll take what’s coming to me,” Bratton said.