Lawsuits against Mincks proceed

MARIETTA – Court dates have been set in a pair of lawsuits by former employees against Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

A case management conference is slated for 10:15 a.m. July 1, with Washington County Common Pleas Judge Randy Burnworth for the suit filed by former county jail administrator Dean Ketelsen and his wife, who accuse Mincks and the sheriff’s office of maliciously prosecuting him for a crime for which he was acquitted and slandering him by referencing the case in a televised debate.

Meanwhile, a writ of mandamus hearing for ex-deputy Jack Brum is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9 before Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane. Brum is suing to compel the sheriff to issue him a retired peace officer identification card. The card allows holders to legally carry a concealed weapon in all 50 states. Ohio’s concealed carry permits are only recognized in 25 other states.

Responses from the sheriff’s attorneys in both cases deny the allegations.

Ketelsen was charged with two fourth-degree felony counts of theft, accused of stealing medication from the Washington County Jail while he was administrator. A bench trial before Lane resulted in Ketelsen’s acquittal.

The lawsuit alleges Mincks and his office focused on Ketelsen to the exclusion of other potential suspects, despite questionable results of other individuals’ polygraph tests. The suit says Mincks and the department “acted with malice … by referring the plaintiff’s criminal case to the prosecution because they knew or should have known that no evidence existed linking the plaintiff to the alleged stolen medications.”

The response, filed by Columbus attorney Cheri B. Hass, says the actions “were pursued in good faith and were in accordance with the law.”

She also points to certain immunity that public offices and officials have from lawsuits and said that whether exceptions to that immunity existed in this situation would likely be argued in the case.

As for the reference during the September sheriff’s candidate debate, the response says “defendants’ conduct is protected by the First Amendment” and “all statements made by defendants were truthful and accurate to the best of their knowledge.”

In answer to Brum’s suit, Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider said in a response that the former deputy has not followed the proper procedure to obtain the ID card as he “has failed to meet with Sheriff Larry R. Mincks for that purpose.” It also says Brum never completed paperwork outlining the health issues that caused him to resign nor specifically told anyone at the office or provided documentation showing he was retiring.

To obtain the card, the response says, Brum must meet with the sheriff personally to request it and offer proof of his retirement rather than resignation.

The sheriff’s office is now being represented in the case by Columbus attorney Frank Hatfield.