Assistant Jefferson County Attorney suspended 30 days for inappropriate behavior
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- A Jefferson County prosecutor has been suspended 30 days without pay for "inappropriate" conduct that includes yelling at a defense attorney and threatening to hold the court clerk's office in contempt last month for not producing records quickly enough.
Assistant County Attorney Bob Fleck engaged in "highly inappropriate conduct" on Jan. 29, when he threatened to file a bar association complaint against a public defender and forced her to leave a conference room, according to Fleck's Feb. 12 suspension letter from the Jefferson County Attorney's Office.
And Fleck appeared at the Jefferson Circuit Court clerk's office on Jan. 31, angry about Department of Transportation records not being produced quickly enough, and "engaged in rude and unprofessional conduct to staff members of that office, according to the letter.
Fleck threatened contempt charges against the office even though he knew Criminal Division Chief Susan Ely was meeting with the office to "address the problems surrounding these records," according to the suspension letter in Fleck's personnel file, obtained through an open records request.
The two incidents late last month "are consistent with your past disruptive and unprofessional conduct," wrote Ely and First Assistant Julie Hardesty in the letter. Fleck has been suspended before and ordered to attend counseling.
Fleck will be suspended through March 13 but will provide any information necessary about ongoing cases while he is gone and must get an assessment for "anger/stress related conditions," according to the letter.
Upon his return, Ely and Hardesty wrote, "there will be a zero tolerance for the types of behavior" for which he has been disciplined.
Asked why Fleck was not fired, given the past history, Hardesty said in an interview that "Bob has been a committed and talented prosecutor for this office for many years. He does so much good work for the office. We wanted to give him one last chance to correct his behaviors."
And Hardesty said the 30-day suspension without pay is a "severe sanction."
In January 2009, Ely and Hardesty wrote, a subordinate staff member complained about Fleck's conduct and an internal investigation showed he acted in an "aggressive manner, including grabbing file jackets from employees' hands and pushing full boxes onto the floor."
Fleck was ordered to attend counseling but Ely and Hardesty wrote that there has been "repeated unprofessional and disruptive conduct by you since that time."
In March 2012, Fleck was reprimanded for refusing to speak with a defense attorney on a drunken driving case.
"You abruptly left the attorney and told him you would not work at all with him on the case," according to the records.
According to the disciplinary letter in that case, Fleck refused to work with defense attorney Artie McLaughlin, telling him he would have to get another attorney to handle the case and then walking away.
In October 2013, Fleck was suspended two days for "purposefully providing erroneous information to the defense bar that the DUI diversion program was being terminated. Our office had never made such a decision."
County Attorney Mike O'Connell called that behavior "sophomoric" in his suspension letter.
Fleck, who has been with the office for more than two decades and makes more than $80,000 annually, could not be immediately reached for comment. He has several commendation letters in his file.
Also part of Fleck's history with the office is a controversial plea deal he worked out in 2008 with insurance executive Robert "Bobby" Clarkson which O'Connell called "ridiculously lenient."
O'Connell tried to get the plea deal – in which Clarkson's felony assault charge in injuring a motorcyclist while driving drunk was amended to careless driving – withdrawn but was unsuccessful.
In one of the most recent incidents, a public defender alleged that Fleck cursed at her and forced her to leave a conference room, claiming she had tried to get her case in front of a different prosecutor.
"He then shut the door while I was still standing in the doorway," attorney Kelly Parry wrote in a summary of the incident to her bosses at the public defender's office. "He pushed the door closed and pushed me out with it."
In his e-mail to the county attorney's office about the incident, Leo Smith, deputy chief of the Louisville public defender's office, said, "As you know, this is not the first problem we have experienced with Mr. Fleck."
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