On Friday, March 23, 2018 Sheriff Deb Burchett and Human Resources Director for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office received an e-mail from Chief Deputy Travis Russell stating that he was “resigning my position as the Chief Deputy of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office”. He gave no reason for the resignation noting that “I wish you and your office the very best”.
His resignation was effective on Monday, March 26. Sheriff Burchett has selected Lt Jeff Meyer from the City of Springfield to fill the office of Chief Deputy. He will be sworn in on April 9 according to published reports.
Information obtained for this article came from a Public Records Request for Russell’s personnel file which dates back to his hiring by Sheriff Gene Kelly in 2006.
Russell’s resignation came just one day after a grievance was filed by Deputy Scott Cultice regarding his application to be considered for one of the 3 vacancies on the detective unit. Cultice noted that he received “unequal opportunities” to be considered for the position. He cited Article 5 of the agreement with the department which states “equal opportunity for all employees”. Cultice reported that Russell had in fact given “advantages” to other candidates violating “Article 15”. Cultice requests that Russell be terminated for “his lack of integrity of the process”.
Following Russell’s resignation, Cultice sent an e-mail to Hunt and Gary Cox withdrawing the grievances. Cox confirmed via e-mail on March 23 at 2:31 that the grievances had been terminated.
Deputy Jonathan Snyder also filed a grievance on March 22 stating that on March 19 interviews for the open detective positions were held. He notes that during the interview process it was discovered that Josh Cumby and Nick Moody received the questions and answers prior to the interview date from Russell.
Snyder also cited Article 5 the Non-Discrimination clause and Article 15.1 Vacancy and Show of Interest clause. The agreement outlines in Article 15.1 that the “review panel” will consist of “at least 2 Deputy Sheriff’s chosen by the elected negotiating committee, a sergeant from the Cark County Sheriff’s Office, the Chief Deputy and 1 other member from the outside”.
Snyder states that he feels that the articles were violated “deliberately” to achieve “the sole purpose to benefit a select few of the administration’. He states that the actions taken by Russell “jeopardized the integrity, ethics and trust that we have in our administration”.
He goes on to state that if the Sheriff’s Office is permitted to violate “our contract” by their actions, it will make the members of the department who are represented by a union “vulnerable to further contract violations without recourse in the future”.
Snyder asked that he be awarded the position of Detective and compensated for his time to participate in the initial interview. He also called for an internal investigation to determine all those involved in the violation of “integrity”. He further calls for the elimination of the two deputies involved in the cheating of questions and answers to not be permitted to participate in any interviews related to future posted positions.
Russell posted the vacancies by e-mail on March 5, 2018. Resume packets were due by March 10 at 4:00 pm. Fourteen members of the department applied for interviews.
On March 13 at 9:08 am, Russell sent an e-mail to all of the candidates regarding the time for their interview with the panel which was to begin at 8:00 am and end at 3:30 pm with the final candidate. Moody and Cumby were interviewed in the morning.
Russell sent an e-mail to all candidates on March 19 at 12:17 pm stating that “during the interview process, it was brought to my attention that a certain member of the panel appeared to showing bias during the scoring process”. He goes on to notify the group that he has “spoken to the union and cancelled all interviews”.
He further notifies the applicants from the morning that he is apologizing for “this unfortunate behavior”. Russell states that new questions will be created and interviews will be rescheduled for a later date. He goes on to report that a “labor management meeting’ would be scheduled for March 20 regarding the “issue”. He closes by stating “again I apologize but I feel it is only right to start the process over again for integrity purposes”.
The candidates were called to a meeting on Friday, March 23 at 9:00 am by Major Gary Cox with a note stating that the meeting was “not mandatory”.
On that same day Todd Shillito was a member of the review panel filed an “Employee Misconduct” complaint against Russell. He states that on March 12, he accepted the offer to be part of the panel for the detective interviews scheduled for March 19. He states that during the morning interviews two deputy’s interviews appeared to be “scripted”. The interviews appeared so rehearsed that he believed they may have been given the questions and answers in advance.
Shillito reported that the two deputies in question answered with “exact terminology, words, or phrases that were on the answer key”. Major Reynolds advised the panel that the rest of the interviews were cancelled because the scores were inconsistent. Later Russell sent the email suggesting that one of the panel members’ scores appeared “bias”. Shillito states in his narrative that “I was later informed that I was being blamed as the bias panel member”.
Shillito states in his report that on March 20 her learned of a conversation in which one of the deputies in question admitted that Russell gave him a copy of the questions and answers a week prior to the interviews.
Nearly 300 pages were included in the public records request. This is the second time Russell has resigned from the department without a specific reason stated in his letter.
In September of 2010, then Deputy Russell sent his two week notice to Sheriff Gene Kelly. Russell gave the date of October 4 as his final day with the department. In his resignation, Russell states “I am truly grateful for the opportunity that you have given me at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Russell was hired by Kelly in June of 2006.
Russell filed for unemployment following his resignation and in a letter to Ohio Job & Family Services, Chief Deputy David Rapp informed the organization that Russell resigned his position noting that Russell had give the reason for voluntary separation from the department as a desire to become a full time college student. Russell had reported to Lt Don Lucas that he intended to “become a chemist”.
On December 21, 2010 Russell was denied unemployment according to a document from his personnel file following an appeal. In the notice, the determination is based on Russell claiming that he quit because he “objected to a company rule that he/she alleged was unreasonable or not uniformly applied to all workers in the same classification”. The document goes on to state that no information regarding the objection was ever filed with the department and that he “quit without just cause”.
Burchett has selected the Preble County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation into the allegations of improper handling of the interview for detectives within her organization. Burchett has also declined public comment until the investigation is completed. According to published reports, Russell will not be involved in the investigation because he is no longer an employee despite the fact that he is accused of providing the questions and answers to the two candidates in a formal union grievance.