ELYRIA — An Avon Lake Fire Department captain has pleaded guilty to lesser charges and resigned from his position in connection with allegations he tried to blackmail a fellow firefighter into resigning from his job.
Capt. Glen Eisenhardt, 41, reached a plea agreement with the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of coercion, attempted unauthorized use of property and attempted telecommunications fraud, according to court documents.
Eisenhardt originally was indicted on felony charges of extortion, unauthorized used of property and telecommunications fraud.
“The basis of the agreed plea is that he was charged with three felonies, and in exchange for those three felonies being reduced to misdemeanors, he has agreed to surrender his certificates that allow him to be a firefighter and paramedic,” Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said. “Therefore, he can no longer be a firefighter or paramedic, which will terminate his employment with Avon Lake Fire Department. The penalty he’s suffering is collectively the loss of his certificate and the termination of his job.”
Eisenhardt had been on administrative leave after the allegations against him were made. His defense attorney Dan Wightman said Eisenhardt wasn’t fired from his job.
“It’s a very complicated thing, but he has retired,” Wightman said. “We signed his letter of retirement. He’s not going back there anymore, but he was not terminated.”
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said the city accepted Eisenhardt’s resignation/retirement, effective Monday. Zilka also said “the city has agreed to issue earned benefits to Mr. Eisenhardt pursuant to the firefighters’ collective-bargaining agreement.”
Eisenhardt is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Raymond Ewers on July 25. He could face a maximum of 15 months in Lorain County Jail and $2,750 in fines, according to court documents.
Wightman said he doesn’t expect the state to push for jail time but instead for a possible stayed sentence. Will agreed.
“The court can choose to put him on some type of supervision,” Will said. “We’re not pushing for incarceration or any time in jail, but there’s no agreement that says that.
“Our intent was to make sure that he did not serve as a public servant again in the future,” Will said.
Eisenhardt, who was first hired as a firefighter in 2000, was named the city’s fire chief in December 2011, but he asked for a demotion a year later so he could spend more time with his children.
The alleged blackmail scheme began in February 2016 when Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Moore received a letter in the mail threatening to expose an alleged extramarital relationship unless he resigned or retired from the Fire Department by March 1, 2016, according to an affidavit seeking a search warrant for Eisenhardt’s electronic devices filed last year.
The letter also wanted Moore to convince Avon Lake City Council to eliminate his position, Terry Folley, an investigator with county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office, wrote.
Moore received an email Feb. 17 from a sender that had identified himself with a name similar to an Avon Lake resident who had opposed tax efforts in the past.
Email and internet service provider records subpoenaed by investigators show the email account was created and accessed using a computer connected to an internet account used by the city’s fire union the day the message was sent. The same account was accessed from Eisenhardt’s home Feb. 18, 2016.
On Feb. 23, 2016, Moore received another email from the same address in which the sender complained that he had heard Moore would be taking some time off and demanded an explanation for the delay.
When Moore replied that he had a medical procedure scheduled, he received an email from a different email address that said only “DEADLINE APPROACHING,” Folley wrote. Internet records showed that the second email address had been accessed from Myrtle Beach, S.C., but the man who lived at the address told detectives he didn’t know anyone from the fire department and had had no visitors at the time the email was sent.
Moore received another email April 7, about a week after he announced he would retire in about a year that said the announcement “was inconsistent with the sender’s previous timeline,” Folley wrote. That email was sent from a third account that had been accessed from Eisenhardt’s home internet service April 4, authorities said.
Zilka said the city began an investigation into the matter immediately upon learning of the allegations and fully cooperated with county and state authorities.
“We respect the court’s judgment and reaffirm our legal and moral commitment to protect all city employees from harassment of any form,” Zilka said. “We will be reviewing our personnel policy and procedure with our staff.”