Thursday, April 24, 2014

County vote keeps details of sheriff’s office probe closed

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 10/3/2012

The nature of a KBI investigation into the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is being kept under wraps.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to deny The Ottawa Herald’s open records request to obtain a copy of a Kansas Bureau of Investigation search warrant, as well as other documents related to the investigation.

The nature of a KBI investigation into the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is being kept under wraps.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to deny The Ottawa Herald’s open records request to obtain a copy of a Kansas Bureau of Investigation search warrant, as well as other documents related to the investigation.

The decision to deny The Herald’s request was based on provisions of Kansas state statutes that apply to “criminal investigation records in order to protect the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” Lisa Johnson, county administrator and counselor, wrote in a letter to The Herald dated Wednesday.

David Hood, chairman of the board of county commissioners, said Wednesday commissioners voted 4-0 to deny the open records request. Hood said he abstained from voting because he also had filed an open records request to review the search warrant or other documents pertaining to the investigation. Hood said county commissioners also denied three other open records requests regarding the investigation, including his own.

As chairman of the county board, Hood said he wanted to be privy to the investigation of one of the county’s agencies. But the outcome of the vote, he said, was what he expected.

“I was not surprised that they voted not to approve the [open records] requests,” Hood, a former police officer, said. “I understand the concern about protecting the ongoing criminal investigation.”

Agents with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation went to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Sept. 27 as part of the agency’s probe into the department, the sheriff’s office acknowledged Thursday night.

Officials with the KBI, the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office have declined to comment on the investigation — beyond acknowledging it is ongoing.

Lee McGowan, spokesman for the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office in Topeka, which is handling the investigation at the request of Franklin County Attorney Stephen A. Hunting, also declined to discuss the case.

“I cannot comment on pending investigations,” McGowan said Tuesday.

Jeff Curry, Franklin County sheriff, said Tuesday he had not been suspended, pending the KBI investigation of the sheriff’s office.

“I am still the sheriff, and I will continue to be the sheriff,” Curry said Tuesday afternoon.

The sheriff also was present Tuesday evening at a Pomona City Council meeting, where he presented a plan for law enforcement services in the city for 2013.

Curry declined to disclose the nature of the KBI investigation, but he said his office is cooperating with investigators.

“A complaint was filed, and the KBI has an obligation to investigate it,” Curry said. “The sheriff’s office is cooperating fully with their investigation.”

Curry said he had not been asked by the KBI to surrender his gun or badge, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“No one in the sheriff’s office has been suspended or placed on leave, pending the outcome of this investigation,” Curry said.

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com

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