Pike County commissioner: ‘It’s really a crazy situation’
WAVERLY, OH (FOX19) - “It’s really a crazy situation.”
That’s how Pike County Commissioner Blaine Beekman sums up the turn of events over allegations Sheriff Charlie Reader took confiscated drug money to fuel a gambling habit and a special prosecutor was appointed from the State Auditor’s Office.
Last week, an attorney from the Ohio Auditor’s Office’s Public Integrity Assurance Team was appointed a special prosecutor to investigate a complaint of “misconduct” by Reader.
“We have not been contacted in any manner by anybody. All we are hearing is what’s on the news, which is plenty. It’s really a crazy situation," Beekman said Tuesday. “There’s nothing for us to comment on because we have not been told anything. We are not involved at this point and, frankly, we don’t want to be. There’s some places you just don’t stick your nose in if it’s not necessary.”
The allegations come from an anonymous complaint filed last month with the Ohio Auditor’s Office, just four days before arrests were announced in connection with the execution style shootings of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.
The complaint also alleges Reader owes two deputies several thousand dollars, a local car dealership owner more than $20,000 and let his daughter drive vehicles impounded by the sheriff’s office.
“Reader just does whatever he wants and no one ever calls him on it,” the complaint states, later adding: "We are scared to death of him. He is unstable and threatens people.”
Now, Beekman said he’s waiting to see what happens next just like everyone else. But, he added, if the sheriff did what he is accused of, he should face charges.
“If he did these things, then he has to be prosecuted,” Beekman said. “You have to divorce your personal feeling towards the sheriff and his people because they could be facing some serious criminal charges that could force us to take action.”
“No official action has been taken against anybody. I don’t know who is to take that action, who this goes to at this point. It’s almost like there’s been a lot of publicity out before the investigative steps are complete but maybe it’s all done and they are just not announcing it. We just literally don’t know anything in the commission office. It’s beyond us. We are just waiting. Period.”
He said he didn’t know if the sheriff was at work Tuesday.
Commissioners have not contacted him or checked on the sheriff’s employees, he said.
Reader was sheriff for just months when the Pike County massacre occurred. The slayings are considered the state’s most complex homicide investigation to date, resulting in more than 1,000 tips, hundreds of people interviewed and dozens of search warrants.
The six arrests Nov. 13 of three generations of the Wagner family are the result of a joint investigation led by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.
The cases will be prosecuted by the Pike County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section acting as special assistant prosecutors.
MORE | Pike County Massacre
Reader has not commented, and his lawyer has not returned calls for comment since Friday.
“He has not contacted us either. Remember that these officers are elected independently and we don’t have any administrative power over him. We just set his budget,” Beekman said.
“So he doesn’t have to come talk to us about anything. He apparently has chosen not to. That’s his choice. We are where we are supposed to be. The employees are his employees."
Reader’s lawyer, James Boulger, told The Columbus Dispatch he believes the allegation that Reader has taken money confiscated during drug arrests “will be the main focus of the auditor’s investigation.”
“I think that may be cleared up pretty quickly,” Boulger told the newspaper.
Boulger also told The Dispatch he is “not aware of” Reader having any gambling issues but added that he is not saying that Reader doesn’t gamble.
The attorney, the newspaper reported, noted that borrowing money from friends and acquaintances is not a crime.
Boulger told The Dispatch he expects a more detailed response from Reader to the allegations will be issued later in the week.
Maeanwhile, Pike County officials have been getting all his information from the media.
“We are watching you. You are our source of information," Beekman said. “You don’t want to get involved because you don’t know what the legalities are. The investigation is going on, it’s just not through us. This is new ground and you don’t want to make false steps.”
He had only positive things to say about Reader.
“He’s always gone a good job. We never had any problems with him. No one expected this to come out, obviously.
"The trials are starting on the eight people murdered and we just have no idea where this is coming from. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know that anything is going to be impacted as far as that goes because it’s all still happening. It’s still stage one. It’s still an investigative stage. It’s not like he’s been indicted. We don’t know where we are.”
Tuesday night, Beekman changed his mind and told us he thinks the accusations and the Rhoden family murder case are separate.
The investigation into Reader appears to be handled, at least at this point, solely by the auditor’s office.
It’s not clear yet what impact this will have on the murder prosecutions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said his office was not involved in the investigation into allegations of misconduct by Reader.
Both he and Ohio Auditor Dave Yost declined to comment on the allegations Tuesday.
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