After a written apology from Paul Moss, the Allen County Ethics Commission on Friday took 10 minutes to settle an ethics complaint stemming from the county councilman's traffic stop six months ago.
Saying they were satisfied with Moss's regret over having created the “appearance of impropriety” by calling Sheriff Ken Fries after the June 2 stop on Dupont Road, commission members Wendy Stein and Tom Hardin agreed to dismiss former county employee Phil Pease's complaint that Moss's actions violated the county's ethics policy.
In a statement read by board attorney Tim McCaulay, Moss did not admit to violating the ordinance and said he never sought personal gain. But he also said he regretted doing anything that might have undermined trust in government.
“The public deserves leaders who comply with the standards of the ethics ordinance,” Moss said.
The board then permanently dismissed the case without ruling on the validity of the complaint itself. Today's agreement followed meetings between McCaulay and Moss' attorney, former City Councilman Tim Pape.
Moss said he was relieved the ordeal – which resulted in thousands of dollars in legal fees – was over. But he said it went on far too long and should prompt a review of the ordinance by the County Commissioners.
Stein and Hardin said they appreciated Moss' willingness to apologize. Hardin called the statement's language “genuine. This has not been an easy task. In fact, it has been very difficult.”
Moss was stopped by a county policy officer, apparently because his car was swerving. Moss, who later said he had not been drinking and may have swerved while texting, refused a breath test at the scene and called Fries.
Moss said he declined the field test because he considered it unreliable and called the sheriff simply to speed up the process of taking him downtown for a more accurate test. Fries denied ordering his officers at the scene to grant Moss special treatment, and that claim was subsequently supported – or at least not contradicted – by statements from the officers submitted to the commission.
The panel dismissed Pease's complaint against Fries in September, saying sheriffs are bound by their state association's code of conduct and hence not subject to the county's ethics ordinance.
Friday's hearing was required after Hardin and Stein agreed in October that probable cause existed to believe Moss had violated the ordinance by calling Fries. Calling the investigation a “witch hunt,” board member and former Allen Circuit Judge Tom Ryan walked out of the Oct. 29 meeting and later resigned from the board.
The Commissioners will not replace Ryan until next year.