Nepotism alleged Sheriff Sutherland accused of providing promotion questions to his stepson

Incorrect information was published in Tuesday's issue. The first name of Huron County Sheriff's Capt. James "Jamey" Bracken was misspelled. A former sheriff's office employee has accused Huron County Sheriff Richard Sutherland of providing questions to his stepson before a promotional examination.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

 

Incorrect information was published in Tuesday's issue. The first name of Huron County Sheriff's Capt. James "Jamey" Bracken was misspelled.

A former sheriff's office employee has accused Huron County Sheriff Richard Sutherland of providing questions to his stepson before a promotional examination.

Former Detective Matt Spencer, in a Jan. 24 affidavit, wrote that Sutherland "ordered" him to make a copy of interview questions and provide them to Sutherland's stepson, Jaime Bracken, a detective at the time. Spencer's defense attorney, Gregory Shell, notarized the document and was unavailable for comment this morning.

"When I hesitated, the sheriff told me that he was ordering me to give the questions to Mr. Bracken, that it was not a request. I then gave the list of questions to Mr. Bracken," Spencer wrote.

Sutherland said there is "no way" he commanded Spencer to do that. The sheriff said Spencer probably got the sheet of questions from his conference table, but didn't know what he did with it.

"I wasn't given anything," Bracken, now a captain, said. "That's all I'm going to say about it."

Bracken said Spencer spent of his time with him when he was a detective because of the "natural flow of things," but there was no formal partnership.

The promotion questions originated from the Oberlin Police Department and given during a civil service examination, Sutherland explained. He said he got permission to copy them and later modified the questions to fit the sheriff's office.

"This whole situation stems from criminal charges filed against Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer is trying to send up a smoke screen to (spoil) my reputation," Sutherland said.

Spencer faces a July 24 trial on multiple felonies, based on allegations he stole more than $10,000 from the evidence room and making a false insurance claim to cover the missing money. He was the evidence room supervisor at the time.

Sutherland, who fired Spencer in August, said his 33 years in law enforcement has proven he is a trustworthy person. The sheriff described the allegations as mudslinging.

"As far as I'm concerned, his credibility is shot," Sutherland said, referring to the criminal charges. "Matt Spencer lied to everyone in this office for so many years, why should we take credence in what he says now?"

The sheriff declined to be more specific about Spencer's alleged lies.

Sutherland said he has the power to promote officers himself. He decided a promotional board should determine which of the six candidates would be promoted from sergeant to captain.

"I was advised prior to the situation to stay out of it, per a letter from (the union's attorney)," Sutherland added.

The promotional board consisted of: Major Greg Englund, Col. Bob McDowell (also the investigator for the county prosecutor), Chief Virgil Valentine of the Huron County Jail and Sutherland's twin brother, Chief Deputy Bob Sutherland.

"I promoted from their recommendation," Sheriff Sutherland said. He mentioned there were three officers who were "close" to being promoted, but he declined to be more specific.

Bracken said the board told him he was the unanimous decision for the captain's position.

"I felt I deserved it," he said. "My relationship with the sheriff has been a topic in some form or the other since I've been here."

The sheriff's stepson is used to hearing allegations of nepotism. Bracken said people who know him know his reputation speaks for itself.

"The person I feel sorry the most in this is Jaime," Sutherland said, accusing Spencer and Shell of attempting to make Bracken look bad.

The sheriff said he has been friends with Bracken before he married Bracken's mother, Kitty, about 1991.

"I knew Jaime when he was a baby. I saw him grow up through the years," Sutherland explained. "I hired him when he got out of the Marine Corps."

Bracken said the allegations from Spencer and Shell don't bother him. "I consider the source."

PULL-OUT BOX:

These are the questions a "concerned citizen" mailed Monday to the Norwalk Reflector. Huron County Sheriff Richard Sutherland and his stepson, Capt. Jaime Bracken, said the following questions were part of the promotional examination.

1) What qualities or skills do you possess that will make you a successful first line supervisor?

2) What have you done in your career to prepare you to be a first line supervisor?

3) Briefly describe the difference between "management" and "leadership."

4) What are the desired results that one might expect from proper discipline?

5) Describe your greatest accomplishment during your law enforcement career.

6) What is the most significant change that you would recommend to the Sheriff, as a new Captain, that would make the Huron County Sheriff's Office more effective and efficient?

7) How would you overcome the change of status from being "one of the boys" to being a supervisor and part of the Huron County Sheriff's Office management team?

8) How do you handle an experienced officer whose productivity and attitude have declined and is basically "retired on the job?"

9) If promoted to Captain, what three things do you plan to do to make you an effective first line supervisor?

 

Comments

AnEmployee (Ano...

1) The Sheriff says he has no money for more road patrol...and we know why that is...because of the double dipping and vehicles for the two top administrators....by doing this the county is vulnerable to lawsuits when someone who needs help won't be able to get it because a deputy can't get there in time!
2) The evidence room is a joke, Spencer has not been the only person to have access, many many times more than one person had access; several different people have been in the evidence room and have even used it as a break area as there has (not sure if still is) been a coffee pot in there.

Good grief (Ano...

I like our Sheriff but Bracken should have NEVER been hired into that position. As far as Bracken being Sheriff someday...when hell freezes over in my opinion. There is no way that the people of this county would vote him in... just my opinion. Someone said that Leffler is afraid...no he's not. He's just not capable of doing it. I still can't figure out how he got back in office. Bottom line is that Bracken should be out the door.I'm sure Spencer did something wrong or he wouldn't be in trouble. Valentine & Bob S. should drive their own vehicles & get a big reduction in pay if they want to stay. Get rid of the gas guzzer vehicles & get road cars for the deputies.Oh and stop watching the employees so much. Use the money you would save to get the real criminals. I can think of one they need to watch 24/7. The pot growing, insurance frauding, herion selling/using scum that they can never put behind bars because our prosecutor isn't capable of doing it.

anonymous (Anon...

Although the direct answer to the question is yes, the Commission first reminds all public officials and employees that they are prohibited from authorizing, or employing the authority or influence of their office to secure the authorization of, the hiring of a family member

This came straight out of Ohio Ethics Commission website. This is not a violation of a rule....its a violation of the law.

Would someone please reply as to why Sutherland is not being held responsible for this? I'm asking.....commissioner?? prosecutor??? newspaper??? guy that delivers hair care products to Walmart...anyone?

no name afraid ...

1) What qualities or skills do you possess that will make you a successful first line supervisor?

I'm the Sheriff's son

2) What have you done in your career to prepare you to be a first line supervisor?

I became the Sheriff's son

3) Briefly describe the difference between "management" and "leadership."

They're spelled different

4) What are the desired results that one might expect from proper discipline?

Get promoted to captain

5) Describe your greatest accomplishment during your law enforcement career.

My mom married the Sheriff

6) What is the most significant change that you would recommend to the Sheriff, as a new Captain, that would make the Huron County Sheriff's Office more effective and efficient?

fire me and my relatives

7) How would you overcome the change of status from being "one of the boys" to being a supervisor and part of the Huron County Sheriff's Office management team?

I don't understand the question

8) How do you handle an experienced officer whose productivity and attitude have declined and is basically "retired on the job?"

Promote him to captain...oh wait they already did that.

9) If promoted to Captain, what three things do you plan to do to make you an effective first line supervisor?

I don't understand the question.

Whats the deal ...

I can not understand why we only have two road deputies in a county this big. I think maybe the Commissioners should look at what is going on and maybe get rid of some of the problems at the sheriffs office and get more people on the road.

Just helping (A...

From what I see the sheriff dept. needs to have more than one person in the evidence room all the time. I would think they would have a camera in the room to monitor what was going in and out. Maybe some kind of system that logs the person in and out.

Sheriff did it ...

Look at what we have to deal with, the sheriff did it again. I would like to find out where Boss Hog is??? I can not under stand why the people in the county doesn't see this they only take care of family.

sutherland (Ano...

well if we would get rid of sutherland in this county then we would all save money .. have a better force and heck we might even get a grant or two becasue we all know how sutherland refuses to get grant money and refuses to do the work on a regular basis! we see everyone else get boat loads of moeny and here we are in huron county sitting with 1-2 deputies on in a evening shift if we are lucky! sometimes only one.. becaseu BIG DICK cant read, spell or right.. what an ugly duck for this county .. sooner or alter the voters will realize putting sutherland back in office was a huge mistake!!! VOTE HIM OUT! he is a crook!!!

AnEmployee (Ano...

Taxpayers ask yourself these questions:
1) Why does Bob Sutherland and Mr. Valentine have 40k county Expeditions to drive to and from work when neither of them are first responders but administration? A waste of funds.
2) Why does a transport officer who lives in another county work for the HURON County Sheriff's office and drives a newer late model cruiser to and from his home everyday out of county? (((this transport officer has a newer cruiser than the road deputies who need the best vehicles for response and safety!!))) He should drive his own vehicle to work and then use a cruiser when transporting prisoners! Another waste of funds.
3) Why did the Sheriff's office buy a four wheel type vehicle at a cost of over 10 thousand so a corrections officer can drive it around monitoring inmates while they are outside? Why does this same vehicle need a bedliner?? Yes a bedliner at taxpayer expense!
With the cost of fuel and these vehicles the Sheriff's office could add more road deputies or replace two dispatchers that quit in the last few years leaving dispatch short staffed.

anonymous (Anon...

There absolutely is no doubt he is imcompetent, being competent is no required for his position. He would be a joke if it wasn't such an outrage. I wish the Commissioners would wake up and have an outside agency (not BCI) come in and take a close look at what goes on there. I am told he collects pay for being at the fair thats a felony (as an elected official) The newspaper certainly doesn't have to be Bob Woodward but they can't be Helen Keller either. Ohio law says if you are in a position of authority to hire, you can not hire a relative...its that simple....HOW can he get away with it. Mr. Ashby just go online look up the law http://www.ethics.ohio.gov/Educa... this is the link. It took me 30 seconds to find this. If you want Ill right the story and you can sign your name to it.

frustrated (Ano...

You know if you have been in law enforcement for even a day you'll see that the sheriff is destroying the moral of all of the deputies in the county, but worse yet he's destroying the moral of every officer, not just deputy. I know of certain troopers, police officers, deputies, and even other law enforcement officers in different counties that have nothing good to say about this sheriff's office. Here's something interesting for ya. A memo came down from "higher" stating that no deputy is to make any traffic stops on state routes. Now I don't know about you but I thought that the sheriff's office had authority to be on state routes if it was in Huron county. This is just another way that he can make himself feel important and be in charge. I don't know about you but I think someone forgets what it's like to a regular deputy. The power went right to his head. Now as far as Bracken becoming the captain. Well evryone knows that was a joke. Mr. Bracken talks about being in the Marine Corps. Well then maybe he forgot something; Honor, Courage, and Commitment. This is only the backbone of the Marine Corps. Bracken knowingly accepted a position that he did not rate. And in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps. he should give up the captain bars to one of the sgts. who deserve it. But we all know that's not going to happen now is it. I don't envy any of those deputies up there right now. So hang in there and keep fighting the good fight.

AnEmployee (Ano...

Sutherland, Chief Dep. Bob and Valentine, when they are actually in the building, spend their time watching monitors equipped with sound....these monitors are not on the inmates, they are on the employees!! The employees are constantly monitored for what they SAY and DO. Many employees are nephews, nieces, and cousins of the Sutherland brothers and Valentine; in addition to other employees they monitor their own relatives! So many corrections officers, deputies and other personnel have filed grievances for the hostile, unfair work environment...its too bad some employees are treated with favortism while other valuable employees are continually monitored and spied upon.

AnEmployee (Ano...

Sheriff Sutherland hired his brother Bob after Bob retired (double-dipping), he also rehired Mr. Valentine (jail operations) after he retired (double-dipping again!)...the administration is top heavy, Valentine's position is unwarranted as there is a Luitenant that oversees jail operations and Chief Dep. Bob Sutherland works a half day a week showing realtors forclosed houses...you eliminate these two 50 thousand a year positions and guess what? You can add the much needed road patrol deputies!! On average, there are only two road patrol deputies on road patrol for emergency response for the whole county! Two cannot possibly respond quickly from one of the county to the other...taxpayers should be outraged!

AnEmployee (Ano...

This article appears a bit one sided in that Sutherland and Bracken make several comments as to their innocence. They are lying. Ask any of the other applicants off the record and they'll confirm what they know about Bracken. Sutherland told the "committee" that Bracken was to be chosen regardless of the committee's preference. The interview process was a sham. Sutherland promoted Bracken over 20+ year employees so that Bracken can step into Sutherland's position as Sheriff. This is just the tip of the iceberg; the Sheriff's office has been corrupt and mismanaged (both financially and ethically) for years. It is time for a change!

waddup (Anonymous)

Would someone pleeeese do an investigative report on Sutherland. I'll make it easy for you. Check Ohio laws on nepotism. Sutherland will say he didn't hire his brother...lie...his brother retired and was hired again by Dick. Sutherland did hire his step-son after he quit..he rehired him....just check.!!!!. Leffler knows however, he's afraid to do anything. Pleese ask the so called (committee of lapdogs). This is not a civil servica promotion, people from the inside especially your Uncle are not on the promotion board on a legitmate civil service board. Why not eliminate the perception of impropriety by hiring an outside group to overlook the hiring, like every other law enforcment agency in America. Let me answer that for you....Jamie wouldn't of been promoted. How can Sutherland just say I didn't do it and its dropped. An employee wrote that this is the tip of the iceberg for God's sake check it out. Check his FOJ fund...check who was sent to the MAGLOCLEN seminar representing the Sheriff's office a few years ago. Check records from the evidence room before Soencer worked there. Check out when Jamie bought his Captains Bars yea thats right.....before the uh...hhh "selection committee" rubber stamped Jamie (Sutherland baby) Braken. Even with a little superficial scratching you will find a mountain of improprieties and criminal offenses. Now go ask Dick....have him deny and do a little leg work. I'll be waiting...but I wont be holding my breath.

Dr. Cornelius (...

An interesting story. I for one would be more apt to believe it if someone a little more credible were to come forward and corroborate the story. If Mr. Spencer knows of such a person, he should alert authorities or the media.

anonymous (Anon...

Joe Centers, please explain why the comments on this story have been removed.

just_me (Anonymous)

Many comments have been removed from this article. Why?

Reflector Staff...

A technical problem caused the comments on this page to disappear. Thank you for alerting us to the problem.

AnEmployee (Ano...

The Commissioners and Auditor should check into how the Sheriff's office spends and allocates funds...a good investigation would reveal there is money for additional road patrol and dispatch if funds were distributed in a responsible manner instead of being used to retain favorite employees and to purchase toys.

Reflector Staff...

A technical problem caused by making a correction to this story after it was posted is causing comments to drop off. We're trying to correct it, but so far, it has proved to be smarter than we are.

New London (Ano...

I read somewhere the concern for "Double Dipping" It is all over not just the sheriff's Dept. New London has done this with John Chapin.
I am sure there are other counties doing the same thing.