Judges order Clark County Courthouse evidence room lock cut

A Springfield attorney and sheriff’s deputies searched the Clark County Clerk of Court’s Office Monday by court order as part of an ongoing conflict between Clark County Common Pleas Court Judges and Clark County Common Pleas Clerk of Court Melissa Tuttle.

Also, last week the group had a locksmith cut open a locked evidence room controlled by the clerk’s office in the Clark County Courthouse to allow removal of items the judges felt were unsafe to store in the building.

The elected officials have gone back and forth since 2018 regarding whether Tuttle is effectively doing her job.

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Tuttle has said the court is overreaching and that she is running her office more efficiently than it’s ever been run.

“The clerk’s office remains focused on best practices,” Tuttle said. “While the judges waste county and taxpayer resources in their endless witch hunt, we’ve opened a new title office, updated electronic records and storage and returned $1 million of title revenue to the county’s general fund.”

Tuttle said the judges are harassing her and her employees and that her employees feel intimidated by the constant orders and what she described as “raids”.

Springfield Attorney Dan Harkins, who is representing the judges in the matter, denied the accusation and told the newspaper that the judges are focused on making sure the courthouse is safe. He said they turned their attention to the courthouse evidence room after it was discovered the room hadn’t been locked properly earlier this year.

“The court became aware that there had been an accumulation of evidence and that discovery was because the clerk had left the door of the evidence room open,” Harkins said.

Harkins said the judges don’t believe the evidence that could cause harm to courthouse visitors should be stored in the courthouse. He said the guns and drugs and other evidence taken were not part of an ongoing trial or legal matter and therefore should be removed from the courthouse.

Tuttle said the evidence was given to her by the court and is her duty to protect. She said the evidence involves cases that are being appealed and she has been unable to inform the appeals court of what was taken because a list has not been provided to her.

The judges previously issued an order to Tuttle that told her to remove evidence no longer needed from the evidence room by Oct. 1, but Harkins said the inspection showed that it didn’t happen.

Tuttle said she wasn’t alerted of the issue and still hasn’t been filled in with the details of the incident. She said protecting evidence is a top priority of the office.

A court document filed with the clerk’s office by Harkins Friday details the confiscating of guns drugs and other evidence from the courthouse evidence room.

“Two of the orders mandated the removal of illicit drugs, weapons and other contraband from certain areas of the Clark County Courthouse,” the court document says. “The removal was intended to provide for the security of the courthouse.”

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“A significant number of weapons, some ammunition, a large amount of drugs and other contraband were found during the inspection,” the court document says. “The sheriff’s representatives took possession of the drugs, weapons and contraband which were found during the inspection and removed such items from the courthouse for safekeeping pending the further order of this court.”

The document says the sheriff’s office will complete an analysis and an inventory of the evidence and submit it to the court. Harkins declined to comment exactly how many guns and drugs were recovered.

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