Jeff Curry’s resignation is what’s best for Franklin County, Stephen Hunting said Friday.
About three weeks after the county’s top prosecutor called on Curry, Franklin County sheriff, to resign and began ouster proceedings to remove him from office, the sheriff announced his intention to voluntarily leave the post April 1.
“I was glad to hear [Curry] chose to resign and pleased we are able to take one more positive step forward in working through this issue,” Hunting said. “I was pleased to see that he resigned and glad that he made, in my opinion, the right decision. I think it’s going to be best for the sheriff’s office, best for the county and best for the citizens that this decision was made.”
Curry, who has served the sheriff’s office in some capacity since 1994, remained outwardly devoid of emotion Thursday as his attorney announced his resignation plans during the first hearing of the ouster proceedings filed by Hunting Feb. 27. Appointed as sheriff in 2010 and then elected in 2012, Curry on Thursday mailed his letter of resignation to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.
“It is with a great deal of sadness that I have come to the decision that I will be resigning from the Office of Sheriff,” Curry wrote in the letter, signed and dated March 21. “It has been a tremendous source of pride for me to work with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for roughly 18 years. ... The events of the last few weeks have created a distraction for me and for my office which makes it difficult for me to continue to serve effectively at this time. ... I have appreciated all the support of my colleagues in law enforcement and the citizens of Franklin County more than I can express in a letter.”
As a result of his planned resignation, prosecutor Todd Hiatt said he would dismiss the civil ouster proceedings on April 2 if Curry resigns as planned. Until his April 1 resignation, Curry will remain on administrative leave to allow for an orderly transition of operations to Undersheriff Steve Lunger, who temporarily will serve as sheriff until the Franklin County Republican Central Committee appoints a new leader to the position.
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners is not planning a statement regarding Curry’s resignation, Lisa Johnson, county administrator and counselor, said late Friday.
On Feb. 27, Curry was arrested by agents with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. Details of the allegations against Curry remain sealed by order of the Franklin County District Court, though no reason for sealing the documents has been given.
Trey Pettlon, an Olathe defense attorney representing Curry, said Thursday’s hearing was taxing for Curry as his resignation marks at least a temporary departure from a near two-decade stint in law enforcement.
“[Thursday] was difficult for Jeff Curry,” Pettlon wrote in an email to The Herald. “He has spent closer to 20 years in law enforcement altogether. It has been his goal to be a law enforcement officer literally since he was a child.”
Pettlon also defended Curry’s character in the email, contending the embattled sheriff’s record illustrates his integrity. Citing years in law enforcement and with the U.S. Marine Corps, Pettlon maintained Curry’s resignation is by no means an admission of guilt in the criminal charges against him.
“[Curry] is a man of tremendous integrity. His record bears that out,” Pettlon wrote. “Not just his law enforcement record, which includes the Meritorius Service Award, but his prolific involvement in charitable work and his military record with the Marines, which includes the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal as well as numerous other decorations. The Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is a difficult distinction to attain with the Marines and my client is very proud of that. That is the kind of person my client is.”
Along with Curry, Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy and public information officer with the sheriff’s office, faces a felony charge of interference with law enforcement. Fredricks now is on paid administrative leave from the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office has designated Det. Sgt. Shane Pruitt as the point of contact for the media in Fredricks’ absence.
Both Fredricks and Curry are scheduled to appear at an April 1 preliminary hearing regarding the criminal charges brought against the two.
Though Curry’s resignation doesn’t affect his office, Hunting said, he’s been in contact with members the sheriff’s office about the changes since Curry’s arrest. Undersheriff Lunger already had assumed day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office, Hunting said, and the county attorney’s office will maintain its relationship with local law enforcement to help fight crime in the area.
“We’ll continue to work with the sheriff’s department on the cases they bring over,” Hunting said. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to do what we’ve been trying to do all along.”