Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leaders: Arrests might haunt office

By The Herald Staff | 3/1/2013

The word circulating this week after Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry’s arrest: Disappointment.

“I am very disappointed in what’s happened,” Craig Davis said Thursday. “I’m sorry that some bad decisions apparently were made.”

The word circulating this week after Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry’s arrest: Disappointment.

“I am very disappointed in what’s happened,” Craig Davis said Thursday. “I’m sorry that some bad decisions apparently were made.”

Davis, who served as sheriff for 9 1/2 years immediately before Curry’s time in office, helped with Curry’s campaign during the 2012 primary and general election seasons, even serving as treasurer of his successful bid.

The former sheriff, whose resignation in 2010 led to Curry’s appointment to the position, would not comment on whether he still supported his successor, but Davis said he hoped Curry’s arrest Wednesday on felony and misdemeanor charges would not harm public perception of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as a whole.

“There are great people working down there and they are very dedicated to the citizens of Franklin County and provide good service,” he said.

Steve Harris, chairman of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, said he feared the arrests of Curry and Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy and public information officer with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, as part of an ongoing Kansas Bureau of Investigation probe would undermine the authority of not only the sheriff’s office, but other county offices as well.

“Any time you’ve got something like this that occurs, it can cast a shadow and cause people to have doubts in leadership, which is unfortunate,” Harris said.

Commissioners largely have been kept in the dark about the KBI’s investigation of the sheriff’s office, Harris said, though the county board’s members had an opportunity in the fall to read a Sept. 27 search warrant executed on Curry’s office by the state law enforcement agency. Commissioners, however, voted Oct. 3 not to reveal or read the contents of the search warrant after several open records requests were issued by members of the public and media.

Curry, like Harris, is an elected official and not subject to commissioners’ supervision.

In Harris’ limited dealings with Curry, he said, the sheriff provided “straight forward” information when making presentations to the county board.

Noting the ouster proceedings against Curry that were begun Wednesday by Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, Harris said the county’s top prosecutor had information to which commissioners were not privy, and deferred to Hunting’s judgment.

“Evidently, [Hunting] sees something within the information that warrants [ouster proceedings] going forward,” Harris said.

Hunting also has called on Curry to resign from office to avoid the potentially months-long ouster process.

Surprised,

but not shaken

One top contributor to Curry’s recent primary campaign was surprised by his arrest, but not shaken in his support of the sheriff.

Bill Crowley, owner of Wise Guys Construction, 419 W. 18th Terrace, Ottawa, said he did not regret the money donated to Curry’s sheriff’s bid on behalf of his business.

“I hope the people out there will not pass judgment until the time comes to pass judgment,” Crowley said.

Wise Guys Construction contributed $500 to Curry’s campaign, according to a receipts and expenditure report filed with the Franklin County clerk July 30. Curry defeated two competitors in the Aug. 6 Republican primary, winning more than 50 percent of the vote.

“The way I understand it,” Crowley said, “I think in the end, when everything comes out, it’ll be surprising as to how minor what the initial investigation was about, what a minor offense that was.”

Crowley said he contributed to Curry’s campaign in support of friends who serve in the sheriff’s office. He echoed Davis’ and Harris’ sentiments that the sheriff’s arrest could have a broader impact on other law enforcement officers.

“Because of the bruise that’s being put on the department now, [that] doesn’t mean that everyone down there should be looked upon negatively,” he said.

Arrest expected

Though Curry is innocent until proven guilty, one former county official said, his arrest was overdue.

“To me, it’s been a while coming,” David Hood, former Franklin County commissioner, said. “I knew there was an investigation and everything. I figured he’d probably be charged with something.”

Hood served on the commission when the KBI issued a search warrant on the sheriff’s office in September. Hood echoed Harris’ statement that the board was not given information about the investigation. Hood was among those who filed an open records request to review the search warrant or other documents pertaining to the investigation. Those documents were kept closed by various agencies, including the county, because of the ongoing nature of the KBI investigation.

The sheriff’s arrest Wednesday paints the whole county in a negative light, Hood said.

“I think it’s very detrimental to the county,” he said. “I just feel like it’s detrimental to all the people in the county to have something like that happen.”

Hood attended Hunting’s Wednesday press conference, in which the prosecutor briefly discussed the Curry’s and Fredricks’ arrests, as well as the ouster proceedings. The former commissioner said he thinks Curry will be removed from office, regardless of whether he is found guilty of the charges against him.

Curry and Fredricks are set for their first court appearances at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Franklin County District Court. Davis, Harris and Hood all said they planned to carefully watch the court proceedings in the coming weeks.

Herald reporter Crystal Herber contributed to this story.

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