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Tuesday, March 15, 2016 5:17 pm

Campaigning by clerk staff seen on video

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

A new set of secret videos released Friday appear to show further campaign-related activities in the Fort Wayne city clerk’s office.

The two videos were secretly recorded with hidden cameras, edited and captioned by former parking enforcement supervisor Colin Keeney. One video appears to show former Deputy City Clerk Angie Davis and Patty Stahlhut, a supervisor in the clerk’s office and Davis’ campaign treasurer, using a police database to look up contact information for potential campaign donors. Davis and Stahlhut both resigned their positions with the city Thursday. 

That database being used in the video is called Spillman, Public Safety Director Rusty York confirmed Friday. It contains records of every interaction people have with the police department, including if they were a witness to or the victim of a crime, he said. The database also includes officer notes regarding anything of interest regarding an individual.

"In a subsequent encounter, officers would be able to check that information," York said. 

York is the Democratic candidate for the City Council District 4 seat. 

The city clerk’s office had access to information including names, dates of birth, recent addresses and contact information, York said, as well as incident reports filed under those names. York said the official use for that information was for administration of violations to the city’s false alarm ordinance. The ordinance assesses fines for false alarms that require a response by the Fort Wayne Fire Department.

Keeney said between Davis and Stahlhut, the latter was the only one who had official access to the database.

York said that in light of the video released Friday, that access has since been restricted. 

Improper use of the database isn’t unheard of, York said, noting that the city has terminated people across various departments for using Spillman for personal use. York said he can think of at least two incidents within the past two years when employees were fired for that activity. 

There won’t be a criminal investigation into Davis’ and Stahlhut’s use of Spillman because no laws were broken, York said. No one in the city clerk’s office had access to individuals’ state or federal records, driver’s license information or registration information, he said. 

"It’s a city policy violation, inappropriate use of the Spillman system," he said. "And it’s a moot point because that person has resigned."

The video showing Davis and Stahlhut using Spillman to find contact information for potential donors is the first of two videos released by Keeney on Friday. The second video shows Davis apparently leading a campaign-related discussion with several clerk employees in the office kitchenette. 

Keeney first released a set of videos this month that appeared to show former city Clerk Sandy Kennedy threatening employees’ jobs if they did not contribute to or participate in Davis’ campaign. Kennedy, who served as clerk for 32 years, resigned Oct. 13 amid the controversy, citing health concerns. Davis is running to replace Kennedy in Tuesday’s general election. With less than a week until Election Day, Davis’ name cannot be removed from the ballot. Davis is running against GOP candidate Lana Keesling. 

The Allen County Democratic Party will convene a caucus Nov. 8 to appoint a new city clerk to serve until Dec. 31, which marks the end of Kennedy’s term. The duties of city clerk are currently being fulfilled by former City Councilman Don Schmidt, a Republican, who Mayor Tom Henry appointed as interim city clerk Thursday.

In an interview Friday morning, Keeney said he might not have ever released these videos had he not read a response from Davis regarding the original allegations stating she had no knowledge of electioneering in the clerk’s office.  

"Reading her response, I felt that she was just really dismissive, kind of misleading, she said that she was in the dark," he said. "She said she didn’t know what was going on and it was all (Kennedy) acting on her own. I was sitting at home watching this saying, ‘That’s not true at all.’ "

The resignation of Davis and Stahlhut may have also effectively ended the ethics investigation initiated by City Council President John Crawford, R-at large, late last week. Crawford specifically named Davis and Stahlhut in his letter to the city attorney’s office requesting the investigation. 

"I think they’re pretty well done because under the ethics guidelines you can’t do anything more than dismiss anyone anyway," Crawford said Friday. "But there are other city ordinances (that may have been violated) where a person can be fined up to $1,000. So that would be something possibly that could be done."

Crawford also said there’s still the possibility that the alleged electioneering violates some state statutes, which he said may be investigated by the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office moving forward.

Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said that to him, the videos affirm what he described as systematic abuses in the clerk’s office.

"From what I have seen, I would indicate that the conduct of Davis and others within the clerk’s office is uncalled for  and was an indication of the abuse of office that has occurred as the result of the entrenchment of the Democrats in the city clerk’s office for the past 32 years," Shine said. "There is no doubt why yesterday (Davis) resigned her office before the videos became public, because they are further indication of the misconduct that occurred."

John Court, the county Democratic Party chairman, declined to comment on the videos and was unable to say whether the party would call for Davis to relinquish the clerk’s office should she win the election Tuesday.

"Right now the party’s position is that we’re encouraging voters to come out and vote to re-elect Mayor Henry, elect a council and support a clerk of their choosing," he said. "We’ll cross the bridge (with regard to the city clerk position) after Tuesday night. I want to see what the voters decide."

Henry’s office has maintained that the city clerk and mayor are separately elected positions that operate independently of each other and that the mayor has no authority over the clerk.

On Thursday, however, Henry called the actions by some employees in the clerk’s office, including Davis, "inexcusable" when he appointed Schmidt to temporarily run the clerk’s office.

Keesling said she did not have a chance to view the videos Friday and said she wasn’t sure if she was going to ever watch them. 

"I’m just staying focused on what I have to do and not really trying to pay any attention to what’s going on on the other side," she said. "I want to keep focused on what I have to do and not be focused on anything else that may be going on."

Davis did not return a message left seeking comment Friday. 

dgong@jg.net