Burns steps down

WARREN – Commending city law directors and the mayor for believing in him despite his troubled past, a former paralegal charged last week with felony drug possession has resigned amid speculation that he received preferential treatment.

Jason R. Burns, 33, of Boardman, on Monday submitted his resignation letter to Brian Massucci, the head of the city’s Human Resources Department.

The move eliminated the need for a disciplinary hearing scheduled this week that could have resulted in his termination.

Burns had been on unpaid leave since police were called to the city Law Department Dec. 23 to escort him home at the request of his boss, Warren Law Director Greg Hicks. Hicks said he was out of the office at the time, but another employee had called him concerned about Burns’ erratic behavior.

Warren police said it was during a routine pat down that they found what turned out to be heroin and various pills, including OxyContin, for which Burns did not have a prescription.

In his letter, Burns wrote of Hicks, “Greg gave me an opportunity, supported me and believed in me, when many of you at the city did not, and for that I will forever be grateful.”

Burns remarked that he prays one day to be forgiven “for the negative attention” that he brought to Hicks, “which is both undeserved and unfounded.”

He lauded Traci Timko Rose, assistant city prosecutor, calling her a “gem,” and stating that she was in his corner “through thick and thin.”

“However, she was also the one who, when I messed up, needed to hand down the consequences and preached accountability,” he states.

Burns named Mayor Doug Franklin as one of his supporters, but admonished Massucci for looking down on him “for the horrid mistake” he made and “the embarrassment it brought to the city” and to Burns.

“When it is all said and done, I feel that I was an asset to the city,” he writes in the letter.

Since Burns was charged last week, several questions about how his case has been handled have surfaced. Timko Rose said the city charged law department paralegal Burns quickly after test results showed he was in possession of illegal drugs.

The city sent the drugs to the state crime lab on Jan. 2. Burns was charged Feb. 25. Rose said the city received the test results the week of Feb. 17. However, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the investigative arm of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, said tests were completed Jan. 15, and the results were mailed to the city police department on Jan. 16.

Police Chief Eric Merkel and Timko Rose are out of the office and unavailable for comment until Thursday. Hicks has not returned a Tribune Chronicle reporter’s telephone calls to his office this week.

After police arrived at the Law Office about 1:30 p.m. Dec. 23 they found Burns had a hypodermic needle, dirty spoon, two crack pipes, a plastic white prescription bottle that contained four yellow capsules, several “pieces of miscellaneous pills,” and one grayish rock-like substance suspected to be crack. Lab tests were negative for crack, but positive for heroin.

The incident went unreported in local media and a police report contained virtually no information.

Hicks, Merkel and Timko Rose maintain Burns received no preferential treatment.

Burns stated in his letter that he takes responsibility for his actions for which he has to face the consequences and that he has been “clean and sober” since Dec. 23, which he noted as the day he “hit rock bottom.”