Sheriff’s brother, department part ways

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said he made a mistake in allowing his oldest brother, a convicted felon, to assist the department in a volunteer role.

James Andrew “Andy” Myers, 52, was convicted on a felony sexual battery charge and two separate misdemeanor charges of impersonating a public servant nearly 20 years ago.

After helping with his brother’s successful 2014 campaign for sheriff, Andy Myers was also involved in the sheriff’s transition into office and handled social media duties for the department after Matt Myers took office.

Andy Myers helped at a Jan. 1 public open house, then helped create the department’s Facebook page, which launched later that month. He took photos of department employees and activities and helped post them to the page, the sheriff said.

On Saturday, Andy Myers’ association with the department spread through social media, which the sheriff said was the first time he realized that his brother’s association with the department was a problem.

A photo distributed on social media showed Andy Myers wearing a shirt with the sheriff’s department’s star emblem on it.

The sheriff said he talked to his brother Saturday and immediately ended Andy Myers’ association with the department, including turning in the department shirt, the sheriff said.

“I take full responsibility. I can see why people were upset and mad,” Matt Myers said.

The sheriff sent an email to all department employees on Monday, explaining his brother’s background and role with the department.

“My actions of having him here should be no reflection of any other employee in the department. We have good deputies and employees. This was my mistake, not theirs,” the sheriff said.

What happened in 1995

Andy Myers pleaded guilty to sexual battery, a Class D felony, and impersonating a public servant, a Class A misdemeanor, on Nov. 8, 1996. The convictions stemmed from an Oct. 15, 1995, incident in Bloomington involving a 20-year-old man. Andy Myers impersonated a police officer, convinced the man to get into what appeared to be an unmarked squad car, drove to a remote area, struck the man with a flashlight and grabbed him inappropriately, according to court records.

When he was arrested seven days later, a Bartholomew County deputy sheriff’s badge with a brown leather holder was discovered in his car. Andy Myers, then 33, pleaded guilty to the two charges while two other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to one year and six months in prison for the felony and one year for the misdemeanor. The sentences were served at the same time, according to court and Indiana Department of Correction records.

It was his second conviction in about two weeks’ time.

Andy Myers also pleaded guilty to impersonating a public servant on Oct. 22, 1996. The conviction stemmed from a July 21, 1995, incident at Johnson County Park when he impersonated an excise officer at the park and furnished minors with alcohol, according to court documents. He received a one-year suspended sentence, and a charge of furnishing alcohol to a minor was dropped, according to court records.

He served one year and six months in the Putnamville and Westville correctional facilities for the Bloomington incident, according to the Department of Correction.

Because of his sexual battery conviction in Indiana, he was required to register as a sex offender in Texas, where the sheriff said his brother once lived and worked.

Andy Myers is considered a lifetime registered sex offender in Texas. He initially registered June 5, 2012, and verified the registration Sept. 24, 2014. The sheriff said he did not know his brother was registered as a sex offender in Texas.

Andy Myers is not a registered sex offender in Indiana, however, and Matt Myers said he didn’t believe his brother ever had to register as a sex offender in Indiana. However, state law in Indiana allows provisions for sex offenders’ requirement to register to expire after 10 years.

Tips started weeks ago

County commissioners started receiving tips from residents three to four weeks ago that the sheriff’s brother was a convicted felon, Bartholomew County Commissioners Chairman Larry Kleinhenz said. County Attorney Grant Tucker was asked to check into these reports but could not find a conviction for the name “Andy Myers,” Kleinhenz said.

When the news spread over social media Saturday, commissioners learned that Sheriff Myers’ brother’s first name was James. After that, they found the records of his felony conviction, Kleinhenz said.

A search of county payroll records indicated that the sheriff’s brother never was employed by the county or had been paid by the county, Kleinhenz said. Matt Myers confirmed that fact during a Monday afternoon meeting with Kleinhenz, the commissioner said.

The sheriff used poor judgment, but no wrongdoing occurred in terms of violating county policies, Kleinhenz said.

“He told me, ‘I recognize it was terrible judgment on my part. I was just trying to help my brother, who had a troubled past.’ I think he’s learned,” Kleinhenz said.

The county prohibits the hiring of convicted felons, Kleinhenz said. However, the county has no similar policy regarding volunteers, Auditor Barb Hackman said.

“Common sense tells me it’s awfully akin and should be treated the same way,” Kleinhenz said.

Brotherly help

The sheriff said a repaired relationship with his brother led to his involvement with the 2014 election campaign and the department.

“I don’t condone his actions from the past. We had a rough relationship for several years and were not close at all because of his actions,” Matt Myers said of his brother. “When my grandparents passed away over the past three years, I began to reflect about letting some things go and giving family a second chance.”

The sheriff described his brother, who lives in Indianapolis, as knowledgeable and passionate about public relations, social media and politics. So, he let his brother help with his election campaign.

Matt Myers credited the support and help of his family for his election. However, he said upon reflection that he should not have let their involvement spill over into the transition period and when he assumed office.

The photo of Andy Myers wearing a sheriff’s department shirt with the star emblem resulted from his 12-year-old son’s school project about trying to create a ceremonial volunteer horse patrol for the sheriff’s department. Andy Myers was present to get photos and information for the Facebook page. He wore the shirt which he and other transition team members had been given for the open house.

Kleinhenz said the photo of Andy Myers wearing the shirt was troubling to him because it could be insulting to deputies who trained for the right to wear the badge and other sheriff’s employees who represent the department.

The sheriff said it was his mistake for letting non-employees wear such department shirts.

When he met with his brother Saturday, Matt Myers said Andy Myers said he was embarrassed and sorry and understood the decision to end his involvement with the department.

The sheriff, however, said his brother isn’t the one who should be sorry.

“I had no reason to put him in this position. Andy has paid his debt to society. I’m sorry I didn’t use better judgment,” Matt Myers said.

Letter to department

Feb. 9, 2015

To all sheriff’s office employees:

Twenty years ago, my brother was involved in an incident that resulted in his becoming a convicted felon. He was a volunteer during my campaign for sheriff and my transition into this office. He is not, and never was, an employee of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office. Similar to the many other volunteers involved in my campaign, he does not have an ongoing role with the sheriff’s office nor was such a role ever anticipated or intended.

I also want to address the photograph of my wife and our 12-year-old son. First and foremost, neither my wife nor child are employees of the sheriff’s office. My family has always been supportive and involved in my political campaign and in my transition to the office of sheriff. Not only do they want me to succeed, they have a strong desire for this department to succeed as well. They were in a meeting to discuss a proposed home-school project which involved organizing a volunteer ceremonial horse patrol for the sheriff’s office.

I am very proud of your work and I hear good comments from the public, so please don’t let this interfere with the fine job you are doing. In the few weeks I have been here, I am very impressed with your work and this issue will not slow us down.

Sincerely,

Matt

Matthew A. Myers, Sheriff

Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office

County investigation timeline

3-4 weeks ago: County commissioners begin receiving tips that Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers’ brother, James Andrew Myers, who has been assisting the department, is a convicted felon. Initial search using Andy as the first name fails to show any convictions in the state’s criminal database.

Saturday: Story breaks on social media about sheriff’s brother and volunteer role with the department. Sheriff meets with his brother and ends his association with the department.

Monday: Sheriff sends email to department employees explaining his brother’s criminal past and his role with the department. Matt Myers meets with Bartholomew County Commissioners President Larry Kleinhenz, who concluded that the sheriff used poor judgment in the matter.

Pull Quote

“I take full responsibility. I can see why people were upset and mad.”

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers

“My actions of having him here should be no reflection of any other employee in the department. We have good deputies and employees. This was my mistake, not theirs.”

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers

“I had no reason to put him in this position. Andy has paid his debt to society. I’m sorry I didn’t use better judgment.”

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers

Pull Quote

“He told me, ‘I recognize it was terrible judgment on my part. I was just trying to help my brother, who had a troubled past.’ I think he’s learned.”

Larry Kleinhenz, Bartholomew County Commissioners chairman

Author photo
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.