Wednesday, September 17, 2014

County clerk eyed for sheriff duties

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 2/27/2013

With the arrest of Jeff Curry Wednesday, it appeared one of the county’s newest elected officials would become acting Franklin County sheriff.

“I’ve been caught a little off guard,” Janet Paddock, who was elected Franklin County Clerk in November, said Wednesday. “It’s a surprise. We’re carrying on with everything we would normally do. [I’m] staying in touch with Undersheriff [Steve] Lunger, and we’re working through it.”

With the arrest of Jeff Curry Wednesday, it appeared one of the county’s newest elected officials would become acting Franklin County sheriff.

“I’ve been caught a little off guard,” Janet Paddock, who was elected Franklin County Clerk in November, said Wednesday. “It’s a surprise. We’re carrying on with everything we would normally do. [I’m] staying in touch with Undersheriff [Steve] Lunger, and we’re working through it.”

Curry was booked Wednesday on charges of interference with law enforcement (false report) and official misconduct, according to a release from the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office. Lisa Johnson, Franklin County administrator and counselor, said she became aware of the arrest Wednesday afternoon and briefed the Franklin County Board of Commissioners shortly after. The situation is a first in Franklin County’s history, Johnson said, but state statute provides a road map for how to proceed.

“Statutorily what happens is, if and when the sheriff is in custody, the county clerk assumes the responsibilities of the sheriff, so long as he’s in custody,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Paddock was elected Franklin County clerk after unseating longtime incumbent Shari Perry in the August primary election.

Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, met Wednesday afternoon with Paddock, Lunger and Johnson to discuss the interim plan for the office.

Hunting himself assumed the Franklin County Attorney role only recently — after the May 2012 resignation of Franklin County Attorney Heather Jones. Elected to the position in November, he acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and asked that the county maintain trust in its law enforcement.

“The sheriff's department as a whole is a fine organization with many committed members,” Hunting said Wednesday. “But I think what this illustrates is that regardless of who you are and what position you hold, that if at some point you are alleged to violate the law it will be investigated fully and based on the evidence obtained in that investigation ... charges will be filed and you will be held accountable. And in that regard I would hope the community would take solace in that fact.”

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners sought to assure residents the investigation would not affect county operations.

“The county commission, while not directly responsible for the responsibilities of the sheriff or the sheriff’s office, remains committed to carrying out their duties, on behalf of the citizens of Franklin County,” the county said in a release. “[The county commission] has full confidence in the legal process to resolve this matter. These events will not impact the day to day function of the county. And the commission along with all county employees will continue to work on behalf of the citizens.”

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