- By Parker Perry Staff Writer
The former Clark County Chief Deputy who resigned earlier this year after being accused of favoring some deputies over others said the internal investigation that found him at fault isn’t the full truth.
An investigation conducted by the chief deputies at the Preble County and Darke County Sheriff’s Offices found former Clark County Chief Deputy Travis Russell helped Clark County deputies Nick Moody and Josh Cumby cheat on a test for open detective positions at the sheriff’s office.
Russell resigned in March and Cumby resigned before the investigation finished. Cumby did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Russell sent the Springfield News-Sun a statement through his attorney saying that he rejects the internal investigation findings.
“Unfortunately, it appears after reviewing the investigative report and its findings that certain employees of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office set out to support a desired narrative attacking and discrediting Travis Russell,” the statement by Springfield attorney Nathan Stucky says. “Mr. Russell is disappointed by inconsistencies within the report as well as mischaracterizations of numerous events that occurred prior to his departure from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.”
Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett told the Springfield News-Sun that the office stands by the findings of the investigation.
The investigation findings attempt to detail what occurred leading up to two grievances being filed with the Clark County Sheriff Office by deputies who felt they were cheated out of a promotion. The grievances allege Russell provided questions and answers to the two deputies before interviews for detective positions.
In a recording released as part of the investigative report, Moody tells investigators about the moment the sheriff’s office found out about the cheating last spring.
“They said, ‘were you given answers to the test?’ And I said, ‘I was.’ And they said, ‘OK who gave you them?’ (And I said,) ‘Chief Russell.’”
Moody continued talking to investigators.
“(Russell) just started with his highlighter, just starting highlighting stuff and he’s not really saying much,” Moody said.
Moody said the preferred answers were highlighted.
Russell’s statement says when all the facts are made available, Clark County residents will learn that he wasn’t totally at fault.
“Mr. Russell is confident that a full record of facts and circumstances, including supporting documentation, will shine a light on a culture within the Clark County Sheriff’s Office which is in contravention of the policies and procedures of the department,” the statement says. “Mr. Russell believes that this culture falls well short of the standards this community expects and deserves which, in part, led to his resignation.”
Burchett responded to that statement when provided it this week.
“The Sheriff’s Office believes that the investigation into the cheating scandal speaks for itself,” she said. “The investigation was conducted jointly by the Chief Deputies of Darke and Preble County. Their investigation was independent from our Sheriff’s Office and was thorough and detailed. We stand by the results of the investigation and we are committed to making sure that nothing like this happens in future.”
Investigators found Deputies Ben Barrett and William Sanders knew about the cheating but did not report it. They received verbal reprimands.
Maj. Andrew Reynolds was found to have known what Russell was doing, but also did not report it. He was given a written reprimand.
Burchett in a letter to office employees said she too was at fault for the situation.
“Finally I must bear some responsibility for this situation,” the sheriff wrote in the letter. “As Sheriff, I am responsible for everything that happens in this office, especially the actions of my senior staff. I appointed former Chief Russell and I trusted him to manage this office. It is now painfully obvious that my trust was misplaced. His actions have brought us all into disrepute.”