Friday, October 7th, 2011
Shelby County Sheriff agrees to temporary suspension until case is decided
By Shelley Grieshop
SIDNEY - A former sheriff will temporarily take the reins in Shelby County while the current one battles felony charges in two counties.
Sheriff Dean Kimpel, 57, consented to a temporary suspension Thursday - at the request of the Ohio Supreme Court - in lieu of a criminal case pending in Auglaize County court accusing him of sexually assaulting a former female deputy.
Kimpel also faces felony charges in Shelby County Common Pleas Court for allegedly using a state computer program to perform five personal background checks.
Shelby County Commissioners met in emergency session this morning and appointed John Lenhart, a Republican, as interim sheriff. The only other contender certified for the appointment was Scott Evans, police chief for the village of Anna.
Lenhart's appointment must be approved by the county's Republican Party, which months ago asked Kimpel, also a Republican, to step down.
Lenhart served as sheriff from 1976 to 1991 and later as superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification. He is a farmer and corporate security consultant.
Lenhart last month announced he was seeking re-election as sheriff in November 2012. Kimpel's four-year term expires the following month.
While under suspension, Kimpel will retain the title of sheriff and all current wages and benefits until the felony case in Auglaize County is dismissed, a finding of not guilty is declared or until a successor is elected to replace him, court documents state. However, he is stripped of all officials powers as sheriff.
The action to remove Kimpel from office was prompted by Gary Nasal, the special prosecutor in both cases, who filed the request two weeks ago with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Kimpel, of rural Botkins, has pleaded not guilty to all the felony charges pending in Auglaize and Shelby counties. If convicted, he faces a maximum five years in prison for the sexual battery charge and 12 months in jail for each count of unauthorized use of a state web-based program.
A pretrial hearing is set for Oct. 21 in the Auglaize County case. A grand jury indicted Kimpel on Sept. 20 for allegedly sexually assaulting former Shelby County deputy Jodi Van Fossen. She claims the incident occurred at her Wapakoneta home on July 24, 2010, when she became intoxicated and passed out.
Kimpel fired Van Fossen on Oct. 15, 2010. She filed a report of the alleged assault with the Auglaize County Sheriff's Office on Jan. 31. On July 5, she filed a federal job discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Kimpel and a captain on his staff, Michael Eilerman, seeking $300,000. She alleges sex discrimination, a hostile working environment, assault and battery, and intention to inflict emotional distress.
The sheriff responded to the federal complaint on Aug. 30. He acknowledged several facts in the case but denied all allegations related to the alleged assault and inappropriate actions claimed by Van Fossen.
On Sept. 29, a Shelby County grand jury indicted Kimpel for using the web-based Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway system to perform personal background checks on five unidentified people between August 2010 and March 2011. He allegedly tapped into the system from his office and home computers.
Kimpel remains free on his own recognizance after earlier posting 10 percent of a $100,000 bond issued in the Auglaize County case. One of the conditions of his bond prohibits him from carrying a gun.