MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher has asked the Mount Vernon Police Department to not use Detective Sgt. Kit Morgan on any felony investigations while BCI is conducting its investigation into actions by Morgan and Chief Mike Merrilees. The request also covers the period of any disciplinary action.
Thatcher explained that he made the request because of the potential effect the investigation could have on felony cases his office might have to take to court.
“I know it creates a hardship for the police department, but it’s more of a hardship for the justice system by having to deal with evidentiary hearings, etc.,” he said.
He explained that a Supreme Court case defined the role the state has to follow in turning over evidence to the defense, including evidence that might make a suspect appear not guilty. That includes items like ethics investigations that might bring into question the integrity of an investigator.
He said some departments maintain a list of all officers with any disciplinary actions that might have an effect on case integrity.
Thatcher emphasized that he is not expressing any opinion on the issues facing Morgan. He said his job is to bring truth to courtroom proceedings and he doesn’t want to deal with side issues that could interfere with the process.
According to Dave Glass, city safety-service director, he was unaware of Thatcher’s request and had to talk with Chief Mike Merrilees before commenting on the situation.
Morgan remains on light duty because of an off-duty injury and is not currently investigating any cases. Glass said Morgan’s current duties include office work such as filing and report compilation. Glass added that when Morgan receives a physician’s clearance to return to his detective position, the city will honor Thatcher’s request.
Morgan and Merrilees are being investigated by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a division of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at the request of City Law Director Chip McConville and Thatcher. The request followed an investigation by the News into allegations of ethics violations and misconduct involving the purchase of a vehicle while in the city impound lot and the purchase and storage of parking meters.
City administration did not place the two on an administrative leave during the investigation because it did not feel the situation warranted removing them from the department.
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