Memo: 'Several conflicts of interests’ in missing box probe

Memo: 'Several conflicts of interests’ in missing box probe
FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - There is more controversy over a box of audit records that went missing months ago in the Cincinnati Police Department.

Captain Jeff Butler gathered the records as he and his staff conducted an interdepartmental audit on police overtime during 2017.

The box vanished sometime after March and remains MIA amid the city’s annual state audit, one that is taking a close look at overtime at the request of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters amid allegations of “felony theft."

RELATED | Prosecutor asks state auditor to look into allegations of ‘illegal’ abuse of police overtime | City response to missing box of police audit records: It’s ‘futile’ | Did CPD misplace or destroy evidence in state overtime audit?

Late last year, as the state audit was wrapping up and months after police officials knew the box went missing, the police chief launched an internal investigation into the box’s disappearance.

But now, according to a memo obtained by FOX19 NOW, there are allegations of a conflict of interest in that probe.

Police Chief Eliot Isaac ordered Captain Russell Neville, the brother of Butler’s supervisor, Assistant Police Chief Teresa Theetge, to interview Butler and Captain Dennis Swingley, who notified Butler his box was missing back in June, the memo states.

Butler objected to Neville’s involvement in a Dec. 19 memo to the chief.

Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (Photo: Facebook)
Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (Photo: Facebook)

“Captain Neville is well qualified for the assignment; however, his assignment by the Police Chief presents several conflicts of interests to the Department and Me,” Butler wrote.

"Specifically:

  • “Captain Neville maintains the same rank as Captain Swingley and I. Department practice requires a rank of the next step to conduct the interview process."
  • “Captain Neville is the brother of Lieutenant Colonel Teresa Theetge, Lieutenant Colonel Theetge is my direct supervisor and is directly involved in the oversight of the Inspections Section. Lieutenant Colonel Theetge also has conducted a preliminary investigation into the storage of the documents pursuant to my Form 17 (complaint) to the City Manager in October 2018 and received prior notification of the inability to located the contents in June 2018.”
  • “Captain Neville has expressed personal objections to me concerning my filing of complaints and lawsuits related to the audit and missing documents."

“I will provide an interview as directed but request my concerns noted," Butler wrote in closing.

We reached out to Cincinnati police for comment on Friday and again Monday morning but have not heard back. We will update this story when we do.

Butler’s lawyer said they are gratified police “are finally looking seriously into the issue of the missing or destroyed overtime records.”

“We are concerned, however,” Brian Gillan added, "that the chief chose Captain Russ Neville to conduct interviews in the case since he is the brother of Captain Terri Theetge, who is involved in the case.

"Captain Neville is not assigned to internal investigations, and there are other captains who do have internal investigations experience. So this strikes us as an odd choice for the chief to make if he’s truly interested in getting to the bottom of this.”

MORE: Draft audit of CPD overtime: ‘Intentional actions to maximize compensation’

Attorney Brian Gillan (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Attorney Brian Gillan (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

A spokeswoman for the State Auditor’s Office said the audit it not yet complete and they do not anticipate it will be until sometime around the end of the month.

Butler’s lawyer questions how the audit can truly analyze police overtime and prove or disprove allegations of “illegal theft” with the missing box still MIA.

About 80 percent of the missing files still exist electronically, but the remaining 20 percent were handwritten and impossible to recreate, according to Gillan.

“We look forward to reading the State Auditor’s overtime investigation results," Gillan said. " We’ll be curious what he is able to conclude, given that essential records were destroyed or lost by the CPD. How can you do a thorough audit without the necessary records?”

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