Officer’s Casual Clothes Result In Loss Of Job In Residency Case

John Senn was hired by the City of Cleveland, Ohio Police Department in 1991. Senn and his wife initially lived in Cleveland. After their children were born, however, Senn’s wife wanted to move out of Cleveland. In September 1996, Senn’s wife and two children moved to a single-family home in Mentor, Ohio. One month later, Senn purchased a one-bedroom mobile home in Cleveland, Ohio. Senn testified that he lived there with his brother-in-law until July 2002, when he moved to an apartment in Cleveland, Ohio.

Senn testified that he and his wife jointly own the home in Mentor and were not legally separated. According to Senn, after his wife refused to live with him in Cleveland, he decided that he would “try to keep my family together as best I could,” so that “on my off days and every chance I could, I would go visit my kids and try to maintain a father/son/daughter relationship as best I could.” Senn admitted that he cuts the lawn and does other maintenance work “all the time” at the house on Buchanan Court and that he sometimes slept there.

The City fired Senn for failing to comply with the City’s residency requirement. Senn appealed to the Ohio Court of Appeals, arguing that the City has not proven that his residence was in Mentor.

The Court rejected Senn’s arguments. The Court observed that “the witnesses who testified for the City and the videotape introduced at the hearing demonstrated that Senn actually lived with his wife and two children in Mentor, rather than in Cleveland. Senn and his wife jointly own the Mentor home and Senn is listed as a mail recipient at the Mentor address. An investigator for the City testified that although he periodically checked the Cleveland location during his five-month surveillance of Senn, he never found Senn there. In addition, the investigator testified that although he conducted his surveillance on different days and at different times of the day, including early morning, midday, and late evening, he frequently observed Senn’s vehicle parked in the same location in the driveway of the Mentor home. The investigator also observed Senn at the Mentor home on several different occasions wearing very casual clothing, such as shorts and no tee-shirt, or a bathrobe with no shoes, and observed a sign in front of the Buchanan Court home which stated “The Senn’s.’”

The Court found this evidence sufficient to demonstrate that “Senn did not actually reside in either the one-bedroom trailer or the apartment, but rather lived with his wife and two children in Mentor in a well-appointed suburban home. Senn’s casual clothing and his frequent repairs to the home are more indicative of that of a homeowner rather than someone who is merely visiting his children. Finally, if Senn actually lived in the mobile home, the investigator would surely have seen him or his car there at least once over the five-month surveillance period.”

Senn v. City of Cleveland, 2005 WL 428764 (OhioApp. 2005).

This article appears in the April 2005 issue