Sheriff’s office probe continues

State investigators have spent 3 months reviewing dispute involving sheriff’s staff.

A state office continues to review the handling of a domestic dispute call involving the Clark County sheriff and members of his department.

It’s been three months since the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations opened the investigation into the Nov. 5 incident. Sheriff Gene Kelly requested an independent investigation, and the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office asked the state to handle it to avoid a conflict of interest.

Kelly, his wife Michele, Sgt. Ralph Underwood and his ex-wife and department employee Pam Underwood were all identified in a sheriff’s office incident report involving an alleged domestic dispute at 2880 Dwight Road. No arrests were made and no charges have been filed. An incident report filed by the sheriff’s office indicated the dispute was limited to verbal arguments between Pam Underwood and Michele Kelly outside the apartment.

BCI confirmed it is still reviewing an October 2011 state audit of the sheriff's office, which found $8,300 missing from two accounts in 2010, as part of its investigation since it involves the same parties. However, spokesman Dan Tierney said he could not provide details or comment on what issues are included in the scope of the investigation.

A Springfield News-Sun review of cell phone records and radio traffic on Nov. 5 showed none of the parties ever used the sheriff’s office radio dispatch system to report the disturbance. According to the records, Sgt. Underwood made a two-minute phone call to Sgt. Mike Young prior to deputies responding to the Dwight Road apartment. Sgt. Underwood was the only party to report the disturbance to authorities, and it was noted by Young in his report of the incident that he was not at the scene at the time of the call nor directly involved in the disturbance.

No radio traffic was ever recorded in connection with the investigation, according to a records request made to the sheriff’s office. Two cell phone calls were made to dispatch by Young once he was already on scene after receiving Sgt. Underwood’s call. Both calls to dispatch regarded background information on Kelly, his wife and Sgt. Underwood.

As previously indicated by the sheriff in a January interview about upgrades to his office’s radio system, office policy indicates deputies should contact dispatch before responding to the scene, preferably through the radio system. BCI did not indicate if this breach would be part of its investigation. Kelly said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

The News-Sun also reviewed nine months of email correspondence from Kelly, Sgt. Underwood and Pam Underwood. The emails, provided by the sheriff’s office in print and digital form, included nearly 1,500 pages, none of which could be correlated to the domestic dispute.

The sheriff contacted the prosecutor to look into the incident since it involved public employees. It’s unclear when the investigation could conclude.