Decatur judge, special prosecutor release document about investigation into former CPD chief

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Bartholomew County officials released a special prosecutor report from Decatur County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Douglas Brown which states a former Columbus police chief did not engage in criminal conduct regarding time card issues involving the department.

The investigation and final report were sealed at the time the special prosecutor was appointed by Decatur Circuit Judge Timothy Day. Day unsealed the record Tuesday morning at Brown’s request, saying the document is a public record.

The Bartholomew County Clerk’s office had refused to provide the document to The Republic on Monday stating the case was “sealed” and also refused to provide the name of the judge who had sealed it.

It should be noted that in the first paragraph of the document, the special prosecutor report states “this final report is filed pursuant to I.C. 33-39-10-2(f): If the target of an investigation by the special prosecutor is a public servant (as defined by IC 35-31.5-2-261), the court shall order the special prosecutor to file a report of the investigation with the court at the conclusion of the investigation. A report filed under this subsection is a public record under IC 5-15-3.”

The document states Brown worked with Special Prosecutor Chris Gaal out of Monroe County, who investigated time-keeping irregularities alleged for 17 Columbus Police officers and determined no criminal charges would be filed due to lack of evidence. That report was not sealed and was released to media upon request.

In the case involving the former police chief, who has been identified as former CPD Chief Jon Rohde, Brown wrote there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he engaged in criminal conduct and there is insufficient evidence to prove he was complicit in any criminal conduct by other members of the police department.

Brown did offer this commentary in the document:

“Rather than issue a separate statement, I will offer this commentary: I don’t like the optics of the target serving as an administrative officer for the Columbus Police Department while also working second and third paid positions during routine business hours of the Columbus Police Department. Two subordinate Columbus Police officers accepted criminal responsibility for receiving simultaneous compensation form the Columbus Police Department and Columbus Regional Hospital during a period of time from February 2015 to August 2018. Those officers were not permitted to ‘flex” their schedule as the target was quoted saying to The Republic in 2019. “Flex time is not in (the Columbus Police Department) policies or directives or utilized.”

Conversely, the target did “flex” his schedule, Brown wrote of Rohde’s conduct. The city’s human resources director advised that police department administrators do not have set hours and the City attorney confirmed that CPD administration are considered salaried and exempt, with an expectation to work 160 hours in a 28-day cycle and be on call “24/7/365.” Brown wrote the “target worked very hard to keep all three supervisors happy with his work product. He was also involved in the launch of Executime on Jan. 1, 2019 and should be credited for resolving the department’s time-keeping issue. In summary, poor optics, not criminal conduct.”

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.