Protecting families

Matt Westerhold
Jan 13, 2014

In Sandusky County, law enforcement is a family business.

Sheriff Kyle Overmyer is the son of a retired sheriff's deputy and one of the men in charge today. His brother-in-law is sheriff's Captain Michael Meggitt.

The chief deputy is Bruce Hirt, whose son-in-law, Zach Zender, was recently promoted to detective with the Sandusky County sheriff's office.

Sheriff Overmyer's sister, Tracy Overmyer, is the Sandusky County clerk of courts.

Franklin Kaiser, a fired jail guard supervisor, is the son of former Sandusky County sheriff's deputy Bill Kaiser, who retired from the sheriff's office and now is a double-dipper working for Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt.

Franklin Kaiser got kicked out of the family business, however, when he was fired in early-2012 after allegedly participating in, and allowing, a 21-year-old schizophrenic inmate who was denied her medication to be sexually exploited for hours in an observational jail cell.

Click here for that story

The firing was slow in coming, however, and it didn't happen until after the Register learned of the incident and reported on it. And it wasn't the first troubling incident involving Franklin Kaiser.

After the firings, Sheriff Overmyer and Stierwalt's office made a deal with Franklin Kaiser to pay him and another involved jail guard $5,000 each in taxpayer money for their silence concerning that vulnerable woman's exploitation for Frank Kaiser's and the other jail guard's sexual gratification.

The $10,000 payout approved by Stierwalt is in addition to paid-leave costs taxpayers shouldered for Frank Kaiser and the other guard for more than a month.

And, if not for an anonymous tip to the Register, there's likely a chance the jail guards involved would never have been fired at all. The entire messy situation likely could have been buttoned up and deep-sixed, never to be revealed to the public.

When Stierwalt was forced to reveal details after a public records request from the Register, he released a report filed by the Fremont Police Department that appears to be an attempt at a whitewash, or was whitewashed after it was filed.

Stierwalt left the exploited inmate's name in the report, but he blacked-out the names of the jail guards, including Frank Kaiser, the son of his trusted employee. There doesn't appear to have been any compassion for the victim from the prosecutor, but he seems to have been intent on protecting the guards by redacting their names.

“These are the kind you can talk to because whatever you say, no one will ever believe because they are crazy,” one of the unidentified guards, with apparent experience exploiting mentally ill people at the jail, told another guard, according to the Fremont police report.

Stierwalt appears never to have taken any effective action other than to arrange paying the guards for their silence and protecting their identities, while at the same time he offered no similar consideration for the victim, leaving her name in the report.

Overmyer was content.

“I believe the incident has been fairly and justly dealt with in accordance with the high standards of service that is expected by employees of the Sandusky County sheriff's office and that the public deserves,” Overmyer said in a prepared statement in late February 2012, after the firings and payouts to the guards.

Stierwalt also took no apparent corrective action when an inmate died of asphyxiation after Franklin Kaiser allegedly shattered the cartilage in the inmate's neck and left him to die on a shower room floor at the jail in 2007, according to court documents. 

Click here for related news articles

Welcome to Sandusky County, a place to live, grow and die always fearful of the public officials voters elect and the “high standards” they maintain.

Comments

KnuckleDragger

Matt, this is really not that unusual in our area. If you look at Huron Co. Sheriff, Dane Howard has more than one of his relatives working for him.

Ithink

Wonderful article! There is a great deal of nepotism going on everywhere in this area in all aspects of employment. This article shines the light on how it may effect the outcome of innocent peoples' lives.

Jmschmidt812

Are you aware that the payout probably saved the tax payers more money in the long run! The union would have fought the firing and it could have dragged on for months, at the tax payers expense. Because a father and son happen to work in the same profession it's a family business huh? That's a lame attempt to promote your anti law enforcement agenda. You're continuous attack on the employees of the SCSO seems to be you're personal hobby. If you think there is such a problem there, why don't you forward all your so called facts on to the higher ups and get the ball rolling? Instead you keep printing and reprinting and reprinting again the same rubbish you talked about yesterday, the day before that, and the week before that. You've given a one sided view of everything you find wrong there in Sandusky County. You don't give the whole story about ALL the circumstances involving all the cases you keep rehashing.

Carlos Danger

Mr. Westerhold's dislike of law enforcement is well documented. In fact, in a recent police report of a traffic stop in which he was cited for driving under suspension (the Register is not the only one who can make public records requests), he was quoted as telling the officer "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you."

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Carlos. You are correct. The police report does reflect that statement, which was said in jest and elicited a chuckle from the officer who made the stop. And actually, I think what I said to him was, "I hate you," which prompted the chuckle, followed by me saying, in jest, again, "No, really, I hate you." The officer again seemed to get the intent of the statement. Perhaps it was inappropriate time for me to be humorous, but the statements were not made with any malice. The officer also was professional and courteous and simply doing his job. And you are correct, the public records law is designed to give everyone access to public records, not just newspapers.

Matt Westerhold

Obviously, Jmschmidt812, there is a problem: One pending wrongful death lawsuit ;one pending criminal investigation involving the death of Craig Burdine; and the federal civil rights lawsuit against the Sandusky County sheriff's office involving the inmate who was sexually exploited at the jail. The Register was not involved in any of the decisions made by these families to pursue these paths, but it will continue to report developments in all three cases, which is appropriate.

As far as editorial comment, I'm entitled to my opinion, as are you, and we both have expressed our points of view. 

Public officials also have been given ample opportunity to provide information but have chosen, for the most part, not to be forthcoming with that perspective, which cannot be included in news coverage if it is not provided by them. Public officials also are able to provide commentary here, as you do, if they want to provide that perspective.

It appears also the families involved all have attempted to move this up to the 'higher ups" as you suggest. Perhaps your perspective is impacted by your status as a retired public employee, but thanks for the comment.

Jmschmidt812

. How can I be retired at 37? Hope this isn't a sign of things to come from you. Is this your next group of individuals to pursue, retired public employees?

Matt Westerhold

I'm not sure why I thought you were retired. Perhaps I misinterpreted information in your previous correspondence, but I stand corrected about your status as a retired public employee. 

justice_forall2014

Should look into the cover up done for other law enforcement agencies as well, completely disgusted!

huronguy

Great job Matt! Thanks for bringing this to the publics attention.

Ctwhalers

Matt thanks for this article. An eye opener.

rottnrog

WTG Matt, keep up the good work !!!!

deertracker

I can't believe some of you are okay with a family run LE dept.

Lil DAB

Matt, Thank you for doing the investigative reporting and answering the questions we have been asking! Maybe you should take Jmschmidt812's comment, "why don't you forward all your so called facts on to the higher ups and get the ball rolling?" DO IT!
Let's clean house! Taxpayers don't deserve the scandal!
There is more scandal that doesn't get or hasn't been uncovered in the past too. There is the gray area scandals of spying on each other's spouses, testifying for each other in court, etc...

mikesee

Matt, this really is nothing new regarding multiple family members being hired. If you really want to be "fair and balanced" why don't you look at all gov't agencies in Sandusky, Huron and Erie Counties and see just how many employees are related. It is no secret that must of the employees within the gov't are "hand picked". The interview process of others is just to satisfy requirements placed upon the entity doing the hiring. Not saying this is right or wrong just saying how it is.

Your witch hunt of local law enforcement is well documented and is getting tiresome.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Mikesee. You're welcome to skip the editorial columns if you like and select other commentary or news stories at sanduskyregister.com to read if your tired of this one. 

mikesee

Should I cancel my paid subscription as well?

I am just merely pointing out that the practice of hiring family members or friends is not new. Personally I find it a problem when more qualified people are not hired because of this.

If family members are hired they should not be under the supervision of a family member.

Have a great day Matt!

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for subscribing Mikesee.Your point is well taken. It would be better for everybody if you do not cancel your subscription.

PapaJoe

For crying out loud this is getting old! Hiring family members is a common practice in both the Public and the private sector. How many school districts have families working for them. How many other local governments have people work for them? There is nothing wrong with family members working for the same company. How many relatives of yours Mr. Westerhold are working for your attack dog newspaper? Where was the headline about your DUS? Especially since you expressed your true feelings about law enforcement to them! Oh wait you have an explanation! However you dont give anybody else an explanation.

John Harville

YOu missed that Deputy Meggitt and Clerk of Courts Tracy Overmyer have the same address.
The Sheriff's father retired recently as a deputy. The recent 'cold case' that was featured on TV happened when Kyle was 14 and his father was the deputy investigating.

Peninsula Pundit

Why should Mr. Westerhold's feelings even be under discussion here?
He has printed FACTS of what has been happening in the sheriff's department and posters here defend these shenanigans by saying that Westerhold doesn't like the police? or nepotism?
That's all you got?
No denials that these crimes occurred, just 'the messenger doesn't like the people he's reporting on?' or 'look somewhere else' or 'everyone does it?'
These posters' concept of justice is perverted beyond recognition.

Julie R.

I agree with mikesee on one thing --- the hiring of multiple family members and/or employees that are "hand picked" goes on in all gov't agencies, not just Sandusky County. Just look how many relatives and "friends" of Jimmy Dimora, Frank Russo, the sheriff, and the prosecutor Bill Mason were found to be working in cushy gov't jobs in Cuyahoga County. The amount was staggering.

I'm sure the hiring of relatives, friends, and other "hand-picked" employees goes on in Erie County, too. Take for example the Krista Harris case --- the lady that was making allegations about the prosecutor who ended up being sentenced to a harsh five-year prison sentence for supposedly stealing from her elderly aunt. Didn't somebody say that her two female attorneys both got jobs in the prosecutor's office right after Erie County got away with that harsh 5-year prison sentence? And how about the Elsebeth Baumgartner case. Didn't somebody say that after Bryan DuBois turned on Baumgartner & set her up for that idiot arrest in Bay View his wife was given a job with the Erie County Health Dept.?

Also, how about the retired judges that are "appointed" to handle cases right here in Erie County? Does anybody really believe that the majority of them aren't hand-picked?

Centauri

"After the firings, Sheriff Overmyer and Stierwalt's office made a deal with Franklin Kaiser to pay him and another involved jail guard $5,000 each in taxpayer money for their silence concerning that vulnerable woman's exploitation for Frank Kaiser's and the other jail guard's sexual gratification."

QUESTION: From which fund was this $10,000 taken from? Furtherance Of Justice (FOJ) fund?

Centauri

Sandusky County, Ohio has a long history of misusing funds. There once was a Sandusky County (OHIO) Prosecutor who stole money from the DOJ fund and also $30,000 from the estates of three people and only got very little time in jail.

http://tinyurl.com/mhrbv8x
(June 27, 1978)
Sandusky County Prosecutor steals from DOJ funds and also from the estates of people.

Babo

Yes and didn't former Erie County prosecutor and Sandusky School Board Member Moyer commit suicide in Cuyahoga County after it was discovered that funds from estates were missing from his law firm? Think his son the late Thomas Moyer was in that firm at the time and nothing happened.

Centauri

You can read more about Clarence here:
http://tinyurl.com/q37od87
(December 21, 1961)

The story also appeared in the Sandusky Register. Same date as above.
I don't understand why Clarence went all the way to Cleveland, Ohio to commit suicide.

Jakes Dad

right about now i bet they wish they gave matt westerhold $5000 in hush money.

Jmschmidt812

Are you implying that Mr. Westerhold would've taken the " hush " money? I don't think you are, so your comment is completely irrelevant and off subject. Those officers didn't take " hush " money either.

my oh my

The family and/or good ole boy hiring practices exists in almost all area public safety and government jobs...

Little Giant

That is quite the circus Overmyer is running down there. Then again I think he is the grandson of Phil Huss "Smokey the Clown" who was a long time policeman and detective in Fremont.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bi...

Jmschmidt812

It may be a circus in your opinion, but the fact is Sandusky County's crime rate is a lot lower than Erie county. So those folks there must be doing something right.

justice_forall2014

Could it be lower because the crimes are being committed by the ones who are supposed to enforce the laws and they are being hidden? Interesting thought!

Ithink

That's because they don't go to any 'scene of the crime', thus, lower crime rates can be reported. If they do happen to receive an inmate--probably from another LE branch, then they can make fun of them until the good 'ole boys are needed at a donut eating contest.

Lil DAB

Papa, you say "Hiring family members is a common practice in both the Public and the private sector." No disagreement there, but it doesn't make it right!
How would you like to be passed over for a job you have invested years of school, payments of school loans, hours of work, years of dedication to a job/company/school to someone's relative that hasn't worked as hard or put in the time and effort?
The conflict of interest rises and integrity thins out when there are family members' butts to cover.

dorothy gale

While I sometimes disagree with Mr. Westerhold's opinions and find the paper to be less than acceptable, in this instance I have no problem with his take on this. Law enforcement agencies are filled with corruption, starting at the very top and spilling down on everyone below. Law enforcement officers are in a position of POWER and when they misuse or abuse that power, it adversely affects all of us. If it seems like the editor is belaboring the point perhaps it is because there is no end to the corruption and abuses of power in law enforcement! Maybe he will stop writing about it when it ceases to be an issue! Mr. Westerhold, thank you for continuing to shine a bright light on the dark and dirty doings of local law enforcement agencies. These people are supposed to protect and serve us, a responsibility that gives them power, and they should not be allowed to continue to abuse that power and expect it to be a secret.

Little Giant

The primary reason the crime is higher in Sandusky when compared to Fremont is Metro Housing. Metro Housing and the degenerates that use it are more inclined to commit crime.

my oh my

Perfect example with a city commissioner when their brother received a promotion within the fire department and was also hired over others that were more qualified in Sandusky......It exists everywhere.

The governed

Keep up the good work Matt Westerhold.

holysee

Good to see some real journalism. We surely can not rely on the News Mess in Fremont to take the lead on any of this. Stick to your guns Matt, as law enforcement surely does stick to theirs. Accusations of being anti-cop are laughable at best. The police (prison guards included), being in that position of authority, can and will get away with things they shouldn't. Should they always be given the benefit of the doubt by looking the other way and never peeking under the rug?
Holysee thinks not. I ask the same question asked earlier: Just what fund did that 10,000 simoleons come from? Who pays the 3/4 mil if the lawsuit prevails? These questions are among the many reasons why we need real journalists like Matt. No one else seems to be taking a hard look at this and we in Sandusky county have to rely on an Erie county newspaper to even look at the dirty rug much less have look underneath.
Sad sad sad.

KURTje

KnuckleDragger do know that the GOB network in Huron County IS a problem...soon to be resolved?