Jefferson County Legislator Scott A. Gray is asking the right questions about the newest investigation into alleged misconduct by Sheriffs Department personnel.
What I want to know is, who in this situation knew what was going on? When did they know what was going on? Who in the chain of command knew about it? Mr. Gray asked following Sheriff John P. Burnss announcement Wednesday that he was personally investigating what he termed an unfortunate incident involving an off-duty deputy.
Sheriff Burns did not reveal details, but the incident reportedly involves K-9 handler Adam B. Hallett, who was found asleep in his patrol car off the side of the highway on Dec. 1. No charges were lodged then by an investigating deputy, although the matter has been under internal investigation. Sheriff Burns hinted there was more to the incident than had been initially reported since additional information on Wednesday caused him to take control of the investigation, raising a number of questions in a department plagued by a rash of incidents.
Why has the internal investigation taken more than three weeks already? What is the nature of the new information? Are other personnel involved? What did the sheriff know?
Sheriff Burns expects the investigation to take another two weeks with the possibility of criminal or disciplinary charges being lodged against Deputy Hallett. In the meantime the sheriffs department is operating with what appears to be a flawed set of organizational values.
Deputy Hallett remains on duty as do two other members of the department accused of misconduct. Corrections Officer Mark Kellogg faces criminal assault charges while Detective Stephen C. Cote is the subject of a lawsuit accusing him of deceiving a female deputy into posing for nude photographs. Undersheriff Andrew R. Neff remains suspend for allegedly using his county-issued cellphone to send lewd photos of himself to a woman. Deputy James Randall Jr. has returned to work after being suspended for violating department rules for having a relationship with a woman who has a criminal record.
For now, most of the county legislators are taking a wait-and-see approach. They are trusting Sheriff Burns to conduct a fair and thorough investigation. But at the conclusion of the probe, Sheriff Burns will have to publicly answer the questions raised by Legislator Gray. If Sheriff Burns cannot reassure county residents that he has taken steps to correct the problems, then the Legislature must intervene by calling for an outside, independent investigation.