Preble sheriff to examine Clark County deputies’ unfair hiring claims

The Preble County Sheriff’s Office has been tapped to investigate whether two Clark County deputies received unfair advantages while applying for promotions.

Grievances filed with the Clark County Sheriff Office allege former Chief Deputy Travis Russell provided questions and answers to two deputies before interviews for detective positions. Russell resigned March 23, a day after the grievances were filed.

RELATED: Clark County chief deputy resigns amid investigation, grievances

When reached by the Springfield News-Sun on Friday, Russell declined to comment.

The investigation is ongoing, Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett said, and she will release the findings when that has concluded.

The Preble County Sheriff Office inquiry is focused on the deputies, Burchett said.

“(There will be) no investigation on Russell as he is no longer an employee here,” she said.

She declined to name the deputies involved, but in a grievance Deputies Josh Cumby and Nick Moody are listed as the deputies who received the questions and answers. They didn’t return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

The investigation is an internal one and not a criminal investigation, Burchett said. She declined further comment until the investigation is complete.

READ: Clark County deputies worry jail’s low hot water a safety threat

Burchett has chosen Lt. Jeff Meyers from the Springfield Police Division to replace Russell as chief deputy.

Russell had been second-in-command since Burchett took office in January 2017. He made nearly $95,000 last year.

The former chief deputy was described as professional and courteous in comments in his personnel file obtained by the Springfield News-Sun through an open records request.

The News-Sun reviewed his almost 300-page personnel file that documents his time at the office. The file doesn’t contain any information about the investigation.

Russell first applied to be a deputy in 2006 and then resigned in 2010. He then returned to the office as chief deputy when Burchett was sworn into office.

“Deputy Russell consistently works as a team player; he shows tolerance with work associates and job conditions,” comments in his 2008 review says. “Deputy Russell gets along well with his co-workers, he often takes the initiative when dealing with duties.”

He also received a note from a lieutenant praising him for doing a good job at the jail.

MORE: Clark County Sheriff selects next chief deputy

“I wanted to personally thank you for a job well done on the finding of a knife that was attempting to be smuggled into the jail in a pair of shoes during visitation,” the email says. “The recovery of this weapon may have saved the lives and/or serious injuries to fellow deputies, staff members and other inmates.”

Russell started in the jail, according to his personnel file, and was transferred to road patrol in 2009.

In an evaluation from 2009, the reviewer said in the comments section that he was concerned about Russell’s attitude.

“Deputy Russell embraces the team concept,” the evaluation says. “However, he sometimes demonstrates negativity through spoken words. This is somewhat troubling with such little time on the department and further such little time in this division. We hope for a more positive outlook in 2010.”

Russell said in a resignation letter in 2010 and said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve the public.

His resignation letter doesn’t say why he left the department. In a separate letter from the sheriff’s office to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services about Russell’s unemployment benefits application, it says he wanted to further his education. He didn’t receive the unemployment payments.

EXTRA: Photographer shot by Clark County deputy claims lost wages, pain

“I have learned so many things during my time here including the most important lesson of my life, which is to always strive for perfection but accept excellence,” the resignation said. “Again this career has given me so many things, and I hope that I have given as much back to this office.”

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