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Jefferson County Board of Legislators calls for outside investigation of Sheriff’s Department

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After a nearly two-and-a -half-hour closed-door executive session, in which Sheriff John P. Burns submitted his final written report regarding a Dec. 1 incident involving a deputy suspected of drunken driving, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators unanimously passed a resolution calling for an outside investigation of the incident.

Deputy Adam B. Hallett, who was discovered asleep in his patrol vehicle off County Route 72 in the town of Henderson several hours after he went off duty Dec. 1, was charged with an open alcoholic-beverage container violation Jan. 10.

In a press release announcing his investigation, the sheriff told the public that “the outcome will be nothing less than would have occurred with any other citizen of Jefferson County.”

He later told the Times that he expected to lodge a harsher charge against Deputy Hallett, but was told by the county district attorney that the open container was the only one he could pursue.

District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert has since taken issue with the way her office’s involvement with that charge has been portrayed by the sheriff. Chief Assistant District Attorney Kristyna S. Mills indicated to the Times Friday that Mr. Burns may have already had the charge in mind when he came to see her about the case.

Times Managing Editor Robert D. Gorman objected to the board’s decision to receive Mr. Burns’s report in executive session, citing New York’s open government laws, which state that the motion made to enter into an executive session must identify “the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered.”

Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick said the executive session was necessary to discuss “personnel matters,” a common blanket motion not allowed under the law.

Following the resolution, the special session of the board of Legislators recessed until next Tuesday when it will reconvene following the regularly scheduled Health and Human Services and Finance and Rules Committee meetings.

In the meantime, the board has directed County Attorney David J. Paulsen to prepare a resolution requesting an outside investigation of the events surrounding the incident and the sheriff’s internal investigation into the incident.

It has not yet been determined what outside entity will conduct the investigation.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick said that the state police and state Attorney General’s Office were candidates.

The sheriff’s report is expected to be made available to the public today along with a supplemental report prepared by Mr. Paulsen. It is being withheld for the moment so that names included in the report that do not pertain to the investigation can be redacted, according to County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III.

The outside investigation will pertain only to the incident concerning Deputy Hallett. At this time, the board is not contemplating outside investigations of other incidents of alleged misconduct within the Sheriff’s Department.

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