Friday, June 4, 2010

Former Dearborn County Judge Michael Witte is settling scores before he leads the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission

The following is a letter I sent to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concerning some problems in Dearborn County concerning county elections. On a side note, former Dearborn Superior Court Judge Michael Witte has just been appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. That would be like appointing the CEO of BP to head the EPA.

Daniel P Brewington

dan@danhelpskids.com

www.danhelpskids.com

June 4, 2010

Ms. Carolyn S. Martorana
Attorney, Hatch Act Unit
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W. Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036

Re: Dearborn County, Indiana/Hatch Act

Dear Ms. Martorana:

As a casual observer, it has come to my attention that G. Michael Witte, County Attorney for the Dearborn County Board of Commissioners, overlooked another potential violation of the Hatch Act. Mr. Witte’s self reporting letter failed to notify the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that Dearborn County Sheriff candidate, Mike Kreinhop, may also be in violation of the Hatch Act.

The additional purported non-compliance scenario is outlined below. I ask for the Office of Special Counsel to conduct inquiries and/or issue advisory opinions.

I. 2009 Recovery Act JAG Subgrantee, Grant #09-JRA-005, $174,673.00
2009 Recovery Act Edward Byrne JAG, Award #2009-SB-B9-0261, $57,951.00
2009 Edward Byrne JAG , Application #2009-H1473-DJ, $14,372.00
Recipient: Dearborn County Government
Beneficiary: Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor’s Office Special Crimes Unit
Hatch Act Employee: Mike Kreinhop, (now) Former Detective for Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor’s Office Special Crimes Unit

Mr. Witte’s May 17, 2010 letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel laid out the following about Dearborn County Commissioner candidate, Shane McHenry:


“In January of 2006, the Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor’s Office in conjunction with the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department, the Lawrenceburg Police Department, and the Aurora Police Department formed a multi-jurisdictional task force to address serious felony crimes in Dearborn County, Indiana. Operating under the name of the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit (SCU), it is comprised of three detectives from the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department, one detective from the Lawrenceburg Police Department, one detective from the Aurora Police Department, and two investigators from the Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor’s Office.

Detective Shane McHenry is one of the three detectives of the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department assigned to this SCU. Although his pay is routed through the Sheriff’s Department, he is assigned to the SCU and is viewed by many as the lead detective for the unit.

Mr. McHenry was a candidate in the May 4, 2010 Republican primary election for the office of Dearborn County Commissioner. Mr. McHenry won the election over two other candidates, a Mr. Thompson and a Mr. Rowland. He is now the Republican candidate for County Commissioner in the fall election. During this election process, Mr. McHenry was a full-time employee of the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Office assigned to the SCU which was funded by at least $246,996.00 in federal grant money. Mr. McHenry continues to work for the SCU and act as the Republican candidate for County Commissioner for the November 2, 2010 general election. His campaign material referenced himself as a “Detective for … Special Crimes Unit”. He is a local officer or employee whose principal employment is in connection with an activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or Federal agency.”

The website of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel states the following:

If my candidacy is found to be in violation of the Hatch Act, can I relinquish the duties that cause me to be covered by the Hatch Act, and thus negate my violation?
Answer: No. A person is in violation of the Hatch Act when, at the time he engaged in prohibited conduct, he was covered by the Hatch Act. It has been held that candidacy begins when preliminary steps are taken to establish a candidacy, not just when a formal announcement is made. For example, canvassing voters, polling for name recognition, or meeting with campaign managers are preliminary steps taken that would be viewed as candidacy for purposes of the Hatch Act (even if a formal candidacy is not declared). If such steps are taken by someone who is covered by the Hatch Act, a violation of the Act will have occurred. A change in duties at a later time will not negate the already existing violation.

Though it appears that Mike Kreinhop resigned from his position with the SCU prior to registering to run for Dearborn County Sheriff, Mr. Kreinhop began campaigning for his election bid long before his resignation from the SCU. On March 12, 2009, the Dearborn County Public Blog posted the program information from the February 27, 2009, “Lincoln Day Dinner” which was hosted by the Dearborn County Republican Party. Appearing under the section titled “Other ads attached” were a series of advertisements from businesses and politicians including an ad stating, “Mike Kreinhop, Investigator Special Crimes Unit- for Sheriff.” [See http://dearborncounty.blogspot.com/2009/03/lincoln-day-dinner-program-info.html]

I am not a lawyer nor am I versed in legislation pertaining to the Hatch Act but G. Michael Witte made the argument that members of the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit are subject to the Hatch Act. Although Mr. Kreinhop may not have been a member of the SCU when he officially registered as a candidate for Dearborn County Sheriff, Mr. Kreinhop used his position with the SCU in advertising for his election bid prior to his resignation. As of October 8, 2009, Mike Kreinhop still identified himself as a detective with the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit [Go to the following link for more information on the timeframe of Mike Kreinhop’s role with the SCU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es-rsxCI9gg].

It concerns me as to why County Attorney G. Michael Witte failed to include Mike Kreinhop in his letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel especially as it appears that Mr. Witte unilaterally decided to take this action before informing the members of the Dearborn County Board of Commissioners about the situation. I question how and when Mr. Witte discovered the alleged violations of the Hatch Act and what motivated Mr. Witte to express his concerns. The minutes from the May 17, 2010 Dearborn County Commissioners’ meeting [See http://dearborncounty.blogspot.com/2010/05/17-may-2010-dearborn-county.html] indicate that Mr. Witte felt that Brian Messmore was in violation of the Hatch Act but failed to report it until Mr. Witte felt that Mr. McHenry violated the act as well. It is worthy to note that Mr. McHenry endorsed Mr. Witte’s opponent during Mr. Witte’s failed attempt to retain his position as Dearborn Superior Court Judge in the 2008 election. Mr. Witte even made the argument that Shane McHenry “is viewed by many as the lead detective for the unit.” As a lawyer and someone who has served multiple terms as a judge in the Dearborn Superior Court, Mr. Witte is fully aware that his opinion about the public’s perception of Mr. McHenry’s “perceived” role with the SCU is irrelevant if Mr. McHenry never claimed to be the “lead detective for the unit.” Mr. Witte’s statements suggest that Mr. Witte was not just notifying the OSC about a potential Hatch violation, but Mr. Witte was attempting to build a case against Shane McHenry by including irrelevant information about Mr. Witte’s perception of what public perception may be. As “reasonable minds” may believe Mr. Witte’s actions may be self-serving and/or give the appearance of retaliation against Mr. McHenry, I am forwarding a copy of this letter to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Please note that a portion of the above information is based on the assumption that the information maintained by the administrator of the Dearborn County Public Forum is accurate. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Respectfully,


Daniel P. Brewington

dan@danhelpskids.com

www.danhelpskids.com

Possible points of contact for any inquiry are as follows:

G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary
Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission
30 South Meridian Street, Suite 850
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Mr. Ralph Thompson
President, Dearborn County Board of Commissioners
Dearborn County Administration Building
215-B West High Street
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025
812-537-1040

Ms. Gayle Pennington
Dearborn County Auditor
Dearborn County Administration Building

215-B West High Street

Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

Mr. F. Aaron Negangard
Dearborn-Ohio Counties Prosecutor
Courthouse
215 West High Street
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025
812-537-1040

Mr. Bryan Messmore
4374 Messmore Lane
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

Mr. Shane McHenry
7 David Drive
Aurora, IN 47001

3 comments:

  1. Alan S. Freemond, Sr.June 7, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    In simple terms what is the violation of which Witte is being accused.
    Facts please. not simple personal grudge things. Did he break a law, if so what law?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have no personal grudge against Michael Witte. I do not know Mr. Witte nor have I ever come into contact with Michael Witte. I did not accuse Michael Witte of violating any law; I just questioned his professionalism in handling the matter which should be relevant as Mr. Witte is going to oversee complaints and investigations of lawyers in southern Indiana. I simply sent a copy of the above letter to the Indiana Supreme Count Disciplinary Commission. If there is nothing wrong with Michael Witte's actions, then there is nothing to be concerned about. We shouldn't be afraid to question authority rather than just assume there is nothing wrong. It is similar to a public records request; sometimes we just have to ask questions to let the government know that we are paying attention. Thanks for checking out my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fantastic, keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete