FORT WAYNE – The Allen County commissioners will not appoint a new member to the Ethics Commission until January, Commissioner Nelson Peters said Friday.
The three-member commission is down to two after Thomas Ryan stormed out of a meeting Oct. 29, saying the panel’s inquiry of a recent complaint was a witch hunt. He then sent an email to the county commissioners, announcing his immediate resignation from the panel.
The commission is set to conduct a public hearing later this month to investigate a complaint filed by a citizen alleging County Councilman Paul Moss and Sheriff Ken Fries violated the county’s code of ethics during a highly publicized traffic stop June 2.
Allen County sheriff’s officers pulled Moss over at 2:30 a.m. in a car that smelled of alcohol. Moss has said he had consumed a few drinks, but it was the day before at a golf outing, and that the alcohol odor came from other people in the car. Moss refused a portable breath test and then called a vacationing Fries on his cellphone.
The sheriff spoke to one of his officers at the scene, and Moss was allowed to find a ride home. Moss is accused of seeking special treatment. He was not charged in the case. Moss said that he called the sheriff to expedite the process of getting a more reliable breath test.
Both Moss and Fries have said no favors were requested and none was given.
Moss did not run for re-election and will be off the County Council on Dec. 31.
Peters said the commissioners were in a position where they would be criticized no matter what they decided.
If we appoint a new (panel) member, then we will be accused of trying to rig’ the outcome; if we wait, then we are not being fair, Peters said.
Peters said the commissioners quietly accepted Ryan’s resignation and opted to follow normal protocol and name a replacement by Jan. 1.
There have been several inquiries from interested citizens, he said.
He is comfortable with a two-member quorum at the public hearing, he said.
Those two members are Tom Hardin, law partner of county Republican Chairman Steve Shine, and Democratic appointee and local business owner Wendy Stein.
Ryan, a retired Allen Circuit Court judge, has consistently voted to drop the panel’s inquiry of the complaint, saying the panel was not the place to hear this out, while Hardin and Stein have pushed for a public hearing and further investigation.
The ethics commission ruled in September that Fries is not subject to the county’s ethics ordinance because the matter falls to the Allen County Sheriff’s Internal Affairs division.
The public hearing is set for Nov. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in the basement of Citizens Square, 200 W. Berry St.