Deputy’s pay ordered held
A Harrison County police officer placed on administrative leave last month will have his paid held, and another county commissioner supports a letter from his fellow commissioner asking for Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick’s resignation.
Commissioner Terry Miller Monday night requested Auditor Pat Wolfe to hold the next payroll claim for Officer John Britton, who was placed on administrative leave last month by the sheriff.
Deatrick made the decision to take Britton off the road after an attorney who advised him said it would be best if the officer was put on administrative leave following notice that the estate of Christine Britton was planning to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Deatrick, the county commissioners and county council. The lawsuit has since been filed.
‘We need to do something about it,’ Miller said. ‘It’s the same as a highway department worker being suspended and still paying him. ‘ Call it whatever you want to; I call it getting paid without doing anything.’
The Harrison County Board of Commissioners advised legal counsel John E. Colin to research the issue to get clarification on the administrative leave, and whether Officer Britton is performing any duties or if he’s receiving pay and not working. Until then, the commissioners agreed to hold Britton’s pay.
Britton’s wife, Christine, died of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound in March at the couple’s home near Ramsey. Indiana State Police investigators said John Britton admitted leaving a handgun in the room when, during an argument, his wife threatened to shoot herself.
Miller Monday night said when the incident occurred, Britton was not on county time or carrying out duties of the county.
Deatrick placed Britton on leave indefinitely.
Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd is still in discussions with Colin, who also is the county’s chief deputy prosecutor, to decide whether a grand jury will be called to review the case. To date, no charges have been filed against John Britton.
Miller, who believes Deatrick continues to make decisions that put the county at risk of further legal actions, sent the sheriff a letter that asks for his resignation. The letter, dated Oct. 6, was signed only by Miller.
Commissioner James Goldman said in a telephone interview Monday that he agrees with what Miller said in the letter even though he did not sign the letter.
‘Terry had told us he was going to write a letter,’ Goldman, who was out of state on vacation when the letter was delivered, said. ‘I wanted to read it first before I put my name on it.’
Goldman said Miller read a draft of the letter to him during a phone call Oct. 2, but he did not know at the time if it was the final copy.
‘I told (Miller) I wanted to think about it,’ Goldman said, adding that he thought Miller would bring a copy of the letter to the commissioners’ meeting on Oct. 5 for Goldman and Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes to sign.
The letter was not mentioned at the meeting, and Goldman went on vacation. He said the version Miller read to him did not mention the SORT team the sheriff has assembled and comprised mostly of corrections officers.
‘It seems it never ends,’ Goldman said of the goings-on at the sheriff’s department, which include a $375,500 settlement by the county in a discrimination complaint filed by two women with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as the investigation of Christine Britton’s death.
And, Goldman said he was told before he left on vacation that another EEOC claim was probably going to be filed.
‘I’ve listened to numerous people ask why we’re not doing something,’ he said, reminding them that they previously asked the sheriff to temporarily step down during the EEOC investigation.
The sheriff’s response was that it wasn’t their place to ask him to do that.
‘I’m just absolutely at my wit’s end,’ Goldman said, adding that the commissioners are in a ‘catch 22’ with regard to what they can do about the sheriff and trying to provide the department with the resources needed to keep the public safe.
‘We can refuse to fund (the sheriff’s department), and we’ve tried to be careful what we fund. (However,) there are a lot of good officers out there.’