Attorney: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office 'not accurate' in re - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Attorney: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office 'not accurate' in response to judge's harassment claims

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By Jason Riley and Marcus Green

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An attorney for District Court Judge Stephanie Burke on Tuesday criticized the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, saying the department hasn't been transparent in its response to his client's repeated allegations of misconduct by a top deputy.

In an interview, Thomas E. Clay said that statements made in a WDRB News story Monday by Lt. Col Carl Yates, a spokesman for the department, “which indicate that the sheriff and members of his command staff had no knowledge of this matter are not accurate.”

And Clay called for Sheriff John Aubrey to investigate the conduct of Maj. Gerald Bates and turn over any documents the office has involving the judge's complaints.

“This issue could have been handled better and to the extent that there haven't been answers forthcoming or documents produced is of great concern to me,” he said. “She (Burke) wants this issue with Major Bates to be addressed and for the sheriff to take appropriate action as he deems necessary.”

WDRB emailed a list of question to Yates, who responded that the department has "no response at this time to your inquiry."

Clay reiterated that Burke first met with Aubrey in May 2013 to address concerns about Bates' conduct, including sending “salacious” emails to the judge and other deputies and law enforcement from his work and personal email accounts during work hours.

While Aubrey promised to take action, Burke said, nothing was done and she asked Clay to send a letter to the sheriff in June 2014 and turn over offensive and sexually explicit messages Bates was sending.

Yates has said the department has no knowledge of the letter Clay claims to have delivered to the office.

But on Tuesday, Clay said that Aubrey called him and asked to meet after he had dropped off the June 2014 letter.

“So I can only infer from that that he had seen the letter, and the subject matter of the discussion we had included the contents of that letter,” Clay said.

Aubrey, through Yates, has declined an interview request and did not answer emailed questions sent last week asking how he responded to the judge's complaints against Bates.

No “formal complaint” has been filed, Yates said Monday. The department conducted an “administrative review” in response to recent public records requests, but the review found no evidence of the letter or any documents, including emails, related to Burke's allegations, Yates said.

Yates has also said there is no ongoing investigation into Burke's allegations and was skeptical of the claims.

But Clay bristled at this statement and said "the media has been given facts to back up all the allegations that have come out regarding Major Bates."

Clay also said neither he nor Burke approached WDRB about her issues with Bates. (WDRB began its investigation based on a tip from a source with knowledge of the matter.)

“She never wanted this matter publicized.” Clay said of Burke. “She wanted it to be handled discreetly and not involving media coverage.”

In March, WDRB obtained Clay's letter and dozens of pages of emails sent from Bates' email accounts to the judge and other deputies.

Bates, who still works in the courthouse downtown, said last week that Aubrey has never said anything to him about complaints from Burke. He said he has never seen Clay's letter.

Bates also denied sending any inappropriate emails or texts to the judge, saying the allegations in the Clay letter were false.

“I wouldn't have sent anything to her from my personal or work email,” he said.

In a 30-minute interview last week, WDRB showed Bates several e-mails sent from his personal and work email addresses to the judge and other law enforcement officials.

Bates said he didn't remember sending the e-mails but that sometimes he leaves his email account open at work, so someone else could have sent them.

Bates also said he had no recollection of sending pornographic emails, but, if he did, it was not sent from his department email address.

Asked if the emails were sent during work hours, Bates said, “I don't recall that.”

WDRB has filed an open records request for Bates' time slips to see if he was working when emails obtained by reporters were sent. He said he typically works Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Of the dozen emails obtained by WDRB, 11 of them were sent during those work hours.

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