Chester officer put on leave

CHESTER – A Chester police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations that surfaced not long after his hiring.

The allegations against Officer Eric Maruca, who just joined the force in July, are not connected with his duties as a police officer, Chief Ken Thorn said.

“It was something that happened off-duty, on his own time,” Thorn said.

Thorn would not elaborate on the nature or timing of the allegations but described them as “a criminal matter.”

Maruca, who served for eight years as a New Cumberland police officer, was hired by Chester to fill a vacancy after he scored the highest on the civil service test.

Mayor Ken Morris declined comment but described Maruca as a good officer.

“This has nothing to do with his performance on the job,” he said. “I’d rather not say what it is.”

Thorn said he learned about the matter two weeks ago when the West Virginia State Police informed him that Maruca was under investigation. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is conducting the investigation, he said.

Sheriff Ralph Fletcher could not be reached for comment.

Chester City Council met in special session on Sept. 27 and, afterward, voted to place Maruca on paid administrative leave on the advice of City Solicitor April Raines, Morris said.

Maruca is serving a one-year probationary period with the Chester Police Department.

While with the New Cumberland Police Department, Maruca was suspended for 20 days without pay in January 2011 for “multiple infractions” involving departmental regulations, according to contemporaneous news accounts.

Then-Mayor Joe Sargent was quoted as saying that Maruca had a “last-chance letter” placed in his personnel file and that he had “some issues that need fixed.”

None of the 2011 infractions were of a criminal nature.

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