Ashley cleared of ethics charges (DOCUMENTS)

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley nwfdn

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley

Special to the Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 11:18 AM.

An ethics complaint filed against Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley in January 2012 has been dismissed.

The complaint, filed by Niceville resident Zeb Watts, claimed Ashley had one Sheriff’s Office employee, Angel DeJesus, do work at his house while on the department’s clock and hired another man, Arnold Brown, to help because he was related to a Sheriff’s Office employee.

“The complainant (Watts) had no evidence that respondent (Ashley) used his position to coerce DeJesus or Arnold to perform the work,” an Ethics Commission investigator reported.

Read documents related to the complaint.

The investigator also found that DeJesus took leave time to work on Ashley’s house.

Watts also contended that Ashley “gave false or misleading statements relating to the work performed by DeJesus” during a deposition.

“There is no evidence of (Ashley) using his position to give false or misleading statements during a deposition,” the investigator reported.

The report also found insufficient evidence to show Ashley’s employment of Brown, the father of Investigations Division head Arnold Brown Jr., was a conflict of interest.

Evidence showed Ashley was out of town when the work was done and never even knew Brown had been called in to help DeJesus.

Contacted Wednesday after the Ethics Commission released its findings, Watts shrugged off complaint’s dismissal.

“They dismissed it. I’m good with that,” he said.

Ashley, through spokeswoman Michele Nicholson, expressed distaste for “unwarranted” ethics complaints like the one filed by Watts.

“I thank the Ethics Commission for their work. However, it’s a shame they have to waste their time on these types of politically motivated, unwarranted complaints,” the sheriff said. “It’s unfortunate those who file these type complaints aren’t held responsible.”

Ashley also criticized Watts’ motives in a letter to the Ethics Commission in June 2012 in response to the complaint. He accused Watts of attempting to “undermine me and the Sheriff’s Office for his own political motivations.”

“Mr. Watts has filed similar frivolous and unmerited allegations against me and the Sheriff’s Office just prior to the 2010 election,” Ashley’s letter said.

The letter alleges Watts maintained a website on which he posted “various conspiracy theories” and that Watts at one time filed an IRS complaint against Ashley “regarding the Sheriff’s Office payment of postemployment benefits to retirees, which he alleged to be discriminatory.”



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