Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader has agreed to a provisional suspension from office as of Wednesday, July 10, according to a judgment entry filed in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas, just a little more than a week after the sheriff pleaded not guilty to a 16-count indictment.

The motion was signed by visiting Judge Chris A. Martin, who presided over Reader’s July 2 arraignment.

On Thursday, the Pike County Board of Commissioners released a statement, saying that Chief Deputy Robert Barbee will serve as department head until an interim sheriff is appointed.

“The Pike County Board of Commissioners will defer to the Pike County Democrat Central Committee to appoint an Interim Sheriff per Ohio Revised Code,” the commissioners stated. “That process requires a minimum of five days and a maximum of 45 days.

“In the meantime, and to maintain continuity of operation of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Deputy Robert Barbee, as the number two ranking law enforcement officer within the department, will function as department head but will retain the title of Chief Deputy until the Democrat Central Committee appoints an interim replacement.”

In a statement on Thursday, Chief Deputy Barbee said that he would like to ensure the public that the sheriff’s office will continue moving forward working with the Pike County Board of Commissioners and other elected officials to maintain public safety and calls for service received by the sheriff’s office.

On Thursday evening, the Democrat Central Committee met and interviewed four candidates for the interim sheriff’s position, including Barbee, Timothy Dickerson, Jim Nelson and Tracy Evans.

The committee is set to vote on an interim sheriff on July 25 at 7 p.m. at Piketon High School.

The Motion to Commence Suspension Proceedings Against a Public Official in Accordance with Ohio Revised Code 3.16 was filed by the state before Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

Reader submitted a written statement in response to the motion filed by the state, and in it, he maintained that his “administration of, or conduct in the performance of the duties of, Sheriff of Pike County, Ohio, as covered by the indictment ... does not adversely affect the functioning of that office, or the rights and interests of the public.”

Reader’s statement continues, “I do recognize that the Ohio Auditor’s Office seven month investigation of me and the Sheriff’s Office has adversely affected the functioning of the Office and has caused debilitating stress to me.”

Reader stated that his conditions of bail prohibit him from communicating with seven of his 16 certified officers as well as the county prosecutor and that he has received notice that he is no longer able to access “any LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) information, including ‘direct access, printouts, and verbal information obtained from LEADS.’ In effect, I cannot listen to the radio transmissions or receive any Office communications which contain LEADS information.”

“Under these circumstances, I can no longer discharge the functions and duties of the office of sheriff and authorize the special prosecutor to submit a judgment of entry of provisional suspension,” Reader stated in the document.

A provision of Reader’s OR (own recognizance) bond set at his arraignment is that he cannot have contact with witnesses in the case.

“Charles Reader has chosen to accept his suspension from office while the criminal case pending against him proceeds,” stated Auditor of State Keith Faber regarding the suspension. “His decision enables the community to maintain confidence in the sheriff’s office while the legal process continues.”

Appearing in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas on July 2 for arraignment, Reader pleaded not guilty through his attorney James Boulger to all charges on which he was indicted in June.

A Pike County Grand Jury indicted Reader on 16 charges on June 28, including seven charges of Conflict of Interest, four charges of Theft in Office, two charges of Theft, one charge each of Tampering with Evidence, Tampering with Records, and Securing Writings by Deception.

Reader’s suspension is with pay. However, according to the Ohio Revised Code, a political subdivision may file a civil action to recover compensation paid to a former public official “from the date of the former public official’s suspension to the date the former public official pleads guilty to or is found guilty of any felony with which the former public official was charged.”

In December 2018, an investigation into alleged misconduct in the sheriff’s office was opened by the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

The Ohio Auditor’s Special Investigations Unit took a lead role in the case, according to the auditor’s office.

After the July 2 arraignment, Faber’s office issued a statement, saying that on July 1 their office filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court to commence suspension proceedings against Reader in accordance with Ohio Revised Code 3.16.

“The details of this case demonstrate that Charles Reader has abused his position for personal gain and violated his oath to faithfully and lawfully serve the people of Pike County,” Faber said. “His suspension is necessary to restore the trust of the public in the members of law enforcement that have sworn to protect and serve them.”

Faber’s office also stated that, like all defendants, Reader is entitled to a presumption of innocence until convicted by a court of jury of his peers.

On July 2, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that he had filed an amicus brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in support of Faber’s office calling for the court to initiate proceedings for removing Reader from office.

Reader’s case is scheduled for a pretrial on Aug. 12.

Email at mlucas@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @NewsWatchman.

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