Friday, October 31, 2014

Franklin County sheriff resigns during ouster hearing

By The Herald Staff | 3/21/2013

Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry is voluntarily resigning April 1.

The news came today as Curry faced a courtroom crowd gathered for an ouster hearing aimed at removing the sheriff from office. Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, who filed the ouster proceedings, had called on Curry to resign immediately following his Feb. 27 arrest on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.

Curry arrived shortly before the 1:30 p.m. ouster hearing today at Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa, and began signing documents. Hunting also was present for the hearing, though the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office had been tasked with handling both the criminal and civil cases related to Curry’s arrest.

Curry did not make a statement at today's hearing.

The sheriff is expected to be on administrative leave until April 1 to allow for an orderly transition of operations to Undersheriff Steve Lunger, who temporarily will serve as sheriff until the Franklin County Republican Central Committee appoints a new leader to the position.

Details relating to the case against Curry — most of which have been sealed by the Franklin County District Court — were not disclosed during today’s hearing. The Herald has filed a motion to intervene in the case, attempting to open the sealed records. The newspaper’s publisher, Jeanny Sharp, has argued that the allegations against the sheriff, an elected official, should be made public because residents have a right to know about what crimes Curry might have committed while in office. That need for information extends beyond mere “public curiosity,” Sharp said.

Senior Judge John E. Sanders, who is presiding over the case, said he would grant The Herald’s motion to intervene, and attorneys in the case must respond with their arguments for or against unsealing the documents on or before April 1. After the attorneys file their responses, the judge is expected to decide whether to open the records.

Jerrod Fredricks, who also was arrested Feb. 27 on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and bonded out of jail later that day, is on paid administrative leave, Lisa Johnson, Franklin County administrator, said Monday. Johnson would not comment on the county’s pending personnel matters, including when or if Fredricks, who has served as master deputy and former public information officer with the sheriff’s office, might return to his post. An open records request for more information on Fredricks’ employment status was declined by the county.

A preliminary hearing for Curry and Fredricks had been set for April 1, although it was not immediately clear if Curry’s resignation today would affect the scheduling of that court date.

Watch The Herald for more details on this breaking news story.

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