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Moss apologizes; ethics panel drops complaint

Moss

FORT WAYNE – Allen County Councilman Paul Moss issued a public apology at the Allen County Ethics Commission meeting for creating an appearance of impropriety when he called Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries during a traffic stop in June.

In addition to Moss’ apology, which was not read by him at the meeting, the ethics commission has agreed to drop the complaint against Moss and make no finding.

Moss came under fire shortly after an Allen County Sheriff’s officer pulled over a black Cadillac that reeked of alcohol on the county’s north side at 2:31 a.m. on June 2. Moss was behind the wheel with a group of 20-somethings as passengers, police said.

During that stop, Moss refused to take a portable breath test and then called a vacationing Sheriff Ken Fries on his cell phone. Fries then spoke with the officer who pulled Moss over.

After conversing with Fries, the officer allowed Moss to call for a ride home.

The officer made no report about the traffic stop and neither did another sheriff’s officer at the scene.

After news of the stop broke, Fries said that the officer at the scene told him that the smell of alcohol was coming from the car but he could not tell whether Moss had been drinking.

Fries said Moss asked no favors of him; that it was not unusual for officers to allow some citizens to call for a ride home; and that officers typically do not file reports about stops where no arrests were made.

Moss himself said he was giving a safe ride home to his daughter and a group of her friends, who had been drinking.

The councilman also said he called the sheriff to “expedite” the process of taking a more reliable test than the portable breath test, which he did not trust.

The traffic stop came to light because the sheriff’s officers at the scene initially asked a Fort Wayne police officer working a drunken driving patrol to come to the scene to administer sobriety tests on Moss.

That officer, who did file a report, was delayed by another traffic stop and asked the officers to bring Moss to the Allen County Jail, where he could administer such tests.

When the city officer noticed the sheriff’s officers were at the scene longer than is typical, he called one of them – but not the one who spoke to Fries – via cell phone.

In his report, the city officer noted that the county officer told him: “Per Sheriff Fries, we were to disregard any further.”

The ethics panel became involved after a former county employee filed a complaint against both Moss and Fries, alleging they violated the county’s code of ethics.

Eventually, the commission ruled that Fries does not have to adhere to the county’s code of ethics because he already must answer to the Indiana Sheriff’s Association’s code of ethics.

The commission continued to look into whether Moss’s phone call violated the county’s ethics code, though, on the grounds that he is not allowed to solicit another official.

Retired judge Tom Ryan and attorney Thomas Hardin, commission members, butted heads regularly during meetings, and last month Ryan walked out mid-meeting because he thought the investigation into Moss should end.

He resigned his position on the panel on the spot, he later said.

Hours before Friday’s hearing, the county commissioners hired an attorney for the ethics commission.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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