CRESTLINE — Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall has released more information about an ongoing investigation involving the Crestline Police Department.
In a response to a public information request, Crall said he is always very concerned about transparency.
“The public must be able to trust and question its government. As a prosecutor, I must also be concerned about the integrity of any and all investigations,” Crall said in a letter on Wednesday. “Disclosing who and what is being investigated would alert the subject of an investigation to the matter being discussed by law enforcement. The subject or a witness would be able to formulate their answers and opinions and compromise any investigation.”
Crall received a letter from Crestline Village Solicitor Rob Ratliff on Sept. 10 that said, in part:
“The Village of Crestline has placed Police Chief Joe Butler on paid administrative leave. While the Chief has been on leave, the Village has become concerned with several aspects of the Chief’s tenure. (Part of paragraph redacted). At this time, the Village is unclear as to whether this was criminal conduct, or even whether this is the only possible example of criminal conduct. Due to the sensitive nature of this matter, I do not feel it is appropriate for the Village Police Department to investigate this matter. I would ask that your office consider opening a complete investigation into these circumstances, or alternatively, referring this matter to the State of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.”
Crestline Police Chief Joseph Butler was put on paid administrative leave Aug. 31 and village council recently appointed Jeff Shook as the interim police chief. According to Crestline Village Administrator John Rostash, police dispatcher Debra Potter was terminated Monday.
In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Stephen Schumacher, also dated Sept. 10, Crall expressed serious concerns about the Crestline Police Department.
“Its chief was placed on administrative leave on August 31 and I spent most of Friday (September 7th) trying to make contact with the village administration who refused to allow access to the evidence room by any remaining departmental officer. According to the Village Administrator, he was the only person who had access to the key. I have reason to believe that is not true.
Several of the remaining officers and dispatchers have contacted me regarding wide scale searches of the department by the Mayor and Village Solicitor including sensitive law enforcement matters. I am unclear where the drug case files are located as they have apparently been removed from the Department. Dispatchers are concerned that L.E.A.D.S. information have been taken. My largest concern involves chain of custody issues as pending felony cases have evidence stored in their evidence room which I fear has been compromised by this “investigation.”
I believe for transparency and public trust; the Village needs a thorough investigation into the actions of the chief and the actions taken by Village Officials in the course of their investigation.
Crall said his office has contracted with former Bucyrus Police Captain John Beal to investigate whether any violations of law have occurred. Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost also has agreed to investigate any improper use of government funds in the Crestline Police Department.