Jeff Curry should resign, the county’s top prosecutor said Wednesday.
While criminal charges against Curry, the Franklin County sheriff, are just that — charges — Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, said, the seriousness of the allegations associated with Curry’s arrest Wednesday led Hunting’s office to begin ouster proceedings against the sheriff. It would be easier on everyone, however, if Curry simply resigned his office, he said.
“I take no joy in this decision. ... Unfortunately, I’m left with no choice but to follow through with ouster proceedings,” Hunting told a room crowded with concerned residents and members of the media Wednesday during a press conference. “In that regard, I today am asking publicly for Mr. Jeff Curry to resign as sheriff of the Franklin County Sheriff’s office.”
If Curry resigns, the ouster proceedings — which can take several months — would no longer be needed, Hunting said.
Made public in September, though few details have been revealed, a Kansas Bureau of Investigation investigation into Curry’s office resulted this week in the sheriff’s arrest on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement (false report) and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, setting bond at $3,000, according to a release from the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office.
Along with Curry, the KBI arrested Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy and public information officer with the sheriff’s office, on charges of interference with law enforcement, with bond set at $1,500.
Details about the investigation and the origins of the charges against Curry and Fredricks have been restricted. Multiple open records requests made by The Herald have been declined by the KBI, Shawnee County Attorney’s Office and Franklin County, citing the ongoing nature of the case.
Both men were arrested “without incident” at the Franklin County Attorney’s Office about noon Wednesday, Hunting said. Curry and Fredricks, who were in custody Wednesday afternoon at the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office, were set for their first court appearance in Franklin County District Court 11 a.m. March 6.
As a result of the charges, Hunting filed a petition for ouster, which, after proceedings, would remove Curry as sheriff if he does not willingly resign.
“The basis for this petition for ouster is the criminal charges that were filed and that Mr. Curry has willfully engaged in misconduct while in office,” Hunting said during the press conference, noting that the contents of the petition are under seal by order of the Franklin County District Court. “The decision to file the petition for ouster was not one that was made lightly, however, after my review, the evidence provided to me from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Shawnee District Attorney’s Office and in light of the criminal charges filed by the special prosecutor, the petition for ouster is appropriate and necessary.”
To avoid a conflict of interest, Hunting handed over prosecution of the case to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office, which formally filed the charges against Curry and Fredricks, Hunting said. The Shawnee County Attorney’s Office also will handle the ouster proceedings.
“Since the subject of the KBI’s investigation is the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, a conflict or, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict, exists with the county attorney’s office having a role in this matter,” Hunting said previously. “Our office works daily with the men and women of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office on several criminal matters. ... Due to the nature and number of Franklin County Sheriff’s Office criminal cases currently being prosecuted, and in an effort to keep cases moving through the judicial system, it is necessary to have an independent, outside party handle this matter.”
The case will be prosecuted by Todd Hiatt, a senior assistant district attorney with the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office. The investigation remains ongoing, Hunting said. Interfering with law enforcement, according to state statue is “falsely reporting to a law enforcement officer ... or any information, knowing that such information is false and intending to influence, impede or obstruct such officer’s or agency’s duty.”