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Officers differ with account of Moss stop

Councilman faces ethics inquiry

Moss

– Officers involved in an early-morning traffic stop of Allen County Councilman Paul Moss said neither knew who Moss was and neither gave permission for Moss to make a call to Sheriff Ken Fries.

In the officers' written statements, obtained Wednesday by The Journal Gazette under a public records request, both said it was not customary to allow a person being investigated to call a superior officer.

Moss, under investigation by the Allen County Ethics Commission, has been asked to appear at a public hearing Nov. 30 and possibly answer questions. Moss is accused of asking for special treatment during the traffic stop on June 2.

Allen County sheriff's officers Steve Stuckey and Edward Hegbli said they pulled Moss over at 2:30 a.m. in a car that smelled of alcohol. Moss said he had not been drinking and refused a portable breath test. He then called a vacationing Fries on his cellphone.

Fries spoke to an officer at the scene, and Moss was allowed to find a ride home.

Although commission members said they were "presented with information" that Stuckey talked to Fries, both officers claimed Stuckey never spoke with Fries.

"I spoke to Sheriff Fries," Hegbli wrote. "He informed me of who I had stopped and instructed me to do what I needed to do with the investigation."

Hegbli and Stuckey both stated that it was not clear to them that Moss was not intoxicated, which is why they did not terminate the investigation.

In his statement to the commission, Moss said he was awakened by one of his grown children who had been out with friends, and all needed a ride home.

Moss said it had been several hours since he drank alcohol – at a golf outing – and that he was not inebriated. The smell of alcohol in his car was "emanating solely from his passengers," according to his statement.

He stepped out of the car but refused to take the portable breathalyzer test because he had been told previously by acquaintances in the legal and law enforcement community that the test was highly inaccurate, Moss stated.

Forty-five minutes after he was stopped, Moss was still waiting to be transported to the Allen County Jail to receive a more reliable test. He grew impatient and called Fries "to expedite the transport and test," and never requested any other kind of assistance from Fries, Moss stated.

He also stated that since that time, he has never cast a vote as a councilman that would financially benefit Fries.

Fort Wayne police officer Andrew Irick was called to assist with the test at the Allen County Jail but was detained by the investigation of an alleged intoxicated driver on Interstate 69, he said in a statement submitted to the commission.

Because of the delayed response time, Irick thought he would expedite the investigation of Moss and asked Stuckey and Hegbli to transport Moss and meet him at the jail, he said.

According to his statement, Irick arrived at the jail at 3:19 a.m.

When notified that he would not be working the investigation, he asked one of the officers to call him so that he could document his time.

Stuckey stated that at the time they were asked to transport Moss to the jail, "Moss was arranging rides for the passengers of his vehicle." Stuckey further stated, "A blood test was never offered to Moss as an option."

Irick said he was told that Moss had telephoned Fries, who later spoke with Hegbli.

"Officer Stuckey informed me that, 'per Sheriff Fries, we could disregard any further,' " Irick reported.

When asked by the commission in the written statement why it was necessary for Moss to get a ride home if the officers were convinced that he was not intoxicated, both Hegbli and Stuckey said they decided to err on the side of caution.

Fries does not have to answer to the Allen County Ethics Commission, the panel's members ruled Sept. 28.

The three-member commission – Tom Hardin, law partner of county Republican Chairman Steve Shine, Democratic appointee Wendy Stein and Allen County Senior Judge Thomas Ryan – found that Fries is already bound by the Indiana Sheriff's Association code of ethics, so he is exempt from the county's ordinance.

At a commission hearing Monday, a heated debate ended with Ryan storming off and accusing his peers of conducting a "witch hunt."

The commission got involved after a complaint was filed by former county employee Philip Pease in which he alleged both Moss and Fries violated the county's code of ethics during the highly publicized traffic stop.

vsade@jg.net

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