Thursday, August 28, 2014

ORC pick could change amid Curry’s arrest ‘distractions’

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 3/4/2013

Franklin County’s top prosecutor has called on Jeff Curry to resign as sheriff, but the elected law enforcement office isn’t the only position of public authority Curry still holds after his arrest last week.

The sheriff also serves as a member of the Ottawa Recreation Commission board — an appointment the Ottawa school board might soon re-evaluate.

Franklin County’s top prosecutor has called on Jeff Curry to resign as sheriff, but the elected law enforcement office isn’t the only position of public authority Curry still holds after his arrest last week.

The sheriff also serves as a member of the Ottawa Recreation Commission board — an appointment the Ottawa school board might soon re-evaluate.

While the school board has not yet discussed Curry’s ORC appointment, Susan Ward, school board president, said the body could add a discussion to its next meeting’s agenda. Curry was arrested Feb. 27 by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. His first court appearance is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa.

“I’m not quite sure what [Curry] is thinking — if he’s going to be too distracted to do the job that he needs to do on the [ORC] board,” Ward said. “I’m sure the ORC board is a time commitment, but I don’t know how his time will be divvied up, given the other distractions he has. I don’t know. We want to have a board member there who is functioning and participatory.”

The ORC board itself has no power to remove one of its own members. However, the entity that makes an appointment to the ORC board, such as the school board, does maintain such a right, Blaine Finch, who acts as legal counsel for the ORC board, said.

 “As I understand it, the board has no power to remove any of its own members,” Finch said. “The entity that made the appointment is the one who would have any authority to consider calling back that appointment or appointing someone else on a temporary basis.”

The five-person ORC board is composed of two appointees from the City of Ottawa, two appointees from the Ottawa school board and one at-large appointee. The Ottawa school board appointees are Curry and Linda Spencer. Curry has served on the board since August 2009, according to Herald archives, and was reappointed in March 2012. His current term ends May 1, 2016.

Ward said she’s spoken with a few residents who have expressed consternation about Curry remaining on the ORC board.

“I’ve had some phone calls — just concerns,” Ward said. “My [concerns] aren’t so much of a judgment thing. It’s just a sheer time commitment and distraction [issue].”

The Ottawa school board’s next meeting is 7 p.m. Monday at the Ottawa school district office, 1404 S. Ash St., Ottawa.

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. Fredricks’ first court appearance also is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday in Franklin County District Court.

Curry’s arrest isn’t the first crime-related controversy to touch the ORC in recent years, but it is the first to involve a sitting board member. Therron Dieckmann, former ORC director, was fired in December 2011 after his arrest on suspicion of domestic battery. Dieckmann later plead guilty on a misdemeanor battery charge, as part of a plea deal that dropped a felony count of criminal threat, and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, according to Herald archives.

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