Accusations against York County Attorney go public
County attorney’s staff releases statement
By Steve Moseley
Published: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 8:35 PM CDT
YORK — Turmoil swirling around York County Attorney Bill Sutter heated up markedly Tuesday afternoon.
During the county commissioners’ meeting, Chairman Kurt Bulgrin read every word of a single-spaced, five-page statement into the public record listing a multitude of accusations about Sutter’s performance, behavior and management style.
The document is signed by Deputy County Attorney Candace Dick as well as Jamie Martell and Crystal Vavra of the office staff.
Sutter’s staff earlier brought their concerns to the county commissioners, who then conducted their own investigation of the allegations. That led to an executive session with Sutter on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
After presenting him with their findings that morning the board asked Sutter to voluntarily resign. He declined to do so and an affidavit was filed the next day by Commissioner Pat Bredenkamp to initiate a recall petition drive.
The commissioners have made it clear that while they asked for Sutter’s resignation as a board, the recall is being undertaken individually, not as the sitting board.
In a statement releasing the list of accusations to the general media late Tuesday afternoon, Bulgrin said it was read into the record “at the York County Commissioners meeting by myself at the request of employees of the York County Attorney’s Office.
Initially the board was hesitant to disclose which employees brought forward the concerns of Mr. Sutter’s mismanagement of the County Attorney’s office and his inappropriate and unprofessional behavior so we could protect them from retaliation by Mr. Sutter.
However, they felt the public needed to know what was taking place in Mr. Sutter’s office. It took a tremendous amount of courage by these individuals to come to the board with these concerns, and even more courage to speak out at this time.
The citizens of York County are very fortunate to have employees like this who will step forward and do the right thing for the county.”
Details of what is required in the recall petition process have been reported on two previous occasions by the News-Times. If adequate signatures are obtained a recall special election in November is likely.
Sutter was in court at midafternoon and unable to offer his comment in response. The county attorney is invited to offer his own statement for publication in Thursday’s paper.
The accusations against Sutter are printed in their entirely below, exactly as presented to the commissioners and as read by Bulgrin Tuesday afternoon, with the exception that expletives have been deleted:
Dear York County Board of Commissioners:
Over the last thirteen (13) months the undersigned individuals have witnessed behavior by William Sutter that has led us to speak out publicly about the concerns we have. We have tried to perform our jobs to the best of our abilities in spite of the conditions in the office and Mr. Sutter’s behavior.
We have also each discussed with him our concerns about his behavior and his failure to perform the duties of his job, but he has refused to respond and has told us that we need to get used to it, he’s an elected official, and we better figure out who we’re working for.
When the Deputy County Attorney tried to express her concerns about the low morale and tension in the office, Mr. Sutter’s response to her was that “he doesn’t really give a (expletive removed)”. The Deputy has tried to alleviate some of the problems in the office by acting as a buffer between Mr. Sutter and the staff, law enforcement, and the public who come into the office.
However, this has created an impossible workload for the Deputy, and has left Mr. Sutter with almost nothing to do. If things continue the way they have been, the office will eventually fall apart. At this point, we don’t feel we have any other options other than to bring the situation to the Board’s attention.
This is a listing of behaviors and statements by Mr. Sutter that we have observed. We are very concerned that Mr. Sutter behaves in a way that is unprofessional and abusive toward others and that he is not fit to handle the duties and responsibilities of the office.
These are some of the behaviors and statements made by Mr. Sutter which have led to our concerns:
1. In early August 2011, an investigator from the Attorney General’s Office contacted Mr. Sutter to inform him that they would be obtaining a search warrant for a computer owned by a person living in York who was viewing child pornography in his home.
The images seized from the suspect’s computer were extremely disturbing and involved children as young as three years old being sexually penetrated by an adult male.
Our office was given a copy of the arrest warrant affidavit which described the photos on the suspect’s computer. Mr. Sutter responded to the case by telling his Deputy: “I don’t really care what people do in their own homes as long as no one gets hurt”.
When an attorney from the Attorney General’s office called Mr. Sutter to discuss what they found, Mr. Sutter told him that we were “up to our (expletive removed) in alligators”, so the AG’s office said they would handle the case for us. Mr. Sutter then had his secretary draft the paperwork necessary to allow the AG’s office to take over the case.
2. On August 30, 2011, an entirely new child pornography case came in. Given Mr. Sutter’s prior statement about child pornography not hurting anyone, the Deputy County Attorney started working on the case.
Mr. Sutter asked what the Deputy was working on and when we told him “child porn” he said “I probably shouldn’t see those [pictures], I wouldn’t want them to fall into the hands of some of my friends”. He said this in front of all three of us.
3. On August 17, 2010, Mr. Sutter was handling a case that the former county attorney, Tim Sieh, filed against a sex offender for failing to register as a sex offender in York County, which is a Class IV Felony. Mr. Sutter amended the charge to a Class I Misdemeanor, and said “he didn’t do anything, he just failed to register… it would be hard to stay on top of. I don’t understand why the State Patrol is wasting their time going around tracking these guys down because I’m not going to prosecute these cases anymore.”
Since that time, we had not had any failure to register cases referred to our office until 6/23/2011, when State Patrol investigators aggressively sought out Mr. Sutter and told him how important it was to file charges.
When that case came before the District Court on August 17, 2011 Mr. Sutter told his Deputy that “this is one of those chicken-(expletive removed) laws… she had sex with a sixteen year old boy and he loved every minute of it”.
4. When Mr. Sutter was presented with a case involving a 19 year old man having sex with a 14 year old girl, Mr. Sutter told his secretaries: “You just can’t have good clean sex these days”. The District Court sentenced that 19 year old man to 2 years in prison for that “good clean sex”.
5. Mr. Sutter also sat down in front of secretary, Crystal, after a hearing, and about losing, he said: “It’s like a woman getting raped, eventually you just have to sit back and enjoy it”. This obviously made Crystal feel uncomfortable.
Mr. Sutter has sat down in front of Crystal on more than one occasion and described his scrotum in detail and how big it had gotten when he was sick. He also told Crystal that “she’s blonde, so she better be careful”, and that she should wear dresses more often.
6. Mr. Sutter often makes shocking, insensitive, and inappropriate comments such as the ones mentioned above, that have caused law enforcement to present their cases to the Deputy and avoid Mr. Sutter.
Mr. Sutter commonly refers to York Police Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies as “morons”, “idiots”, “dumber than a box of rocks”. He has made these statements about our officers to each one of us.
7. Mr. Sutter has also called the Deputy a “stupid (expletive removed)’ (expletive removed)” in the District Courtroom, while sitting inches away, face to face with her.
8. Before the Board spoke to Mr. Sutter on August 23, 2011, Mr. Sutter’s daily work routine was to arrive to work by 8:00 a.m., leave in the morning for an hour or more, return, and then leave again for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 or 2:00 p.m..
He would leave again for the day at 4:30 p.m. If officers or the public came to the office to see Mr. Sutter during his breaks, they would speak with the Deputy instead. While Mr. Sutter is in the office, he plays Solitaire on his computer, sleeps, or reads the newspaper.
9. On June 16, 2010, Mr. Sutter told his secretary, Jamie, to prepare motions for all probation violations for the Deputy’s signature and to let her deal with all the probation cases because he doesn’t like the probation officer because she talks loud and he doesn’t like women who talk loud.
At that point, the Deputy was already handling all the misdemeanor cases, traffic cases, child support cases, half of the felony cases, and Mr. Sutter’s research for the County Board. Mr. Sutter was playing Solitaire on his computer at the time he was saying this to Jamie.
10. On August 12, 2011, at 3:40 p.m., a York Police Officer called for advice about a theft case. Mr. Sutter told us to tell the officer he was gone. Then at 4:05 p.m., Mr. Sutter asked what the officer wanted, he said “nobody wants to screw with it on a Friday” and went home without calling the officer back.
11. Mr. Sutter has had his secretary send memos to law enforcement that he would be out of town and unavailable for coroner calls on the following dates: May 14-17, 2010; August 7-8, 2010; August 13, 2010; September 16-19, 2010; November 20-21, 2010; December 24-25, 2010; January 8-16, 2011; February 18-20, 2011; March 5-6, 2011; March 25, 2011; March 30 -April 1, 2011; May 5-8, 2011; May 24-25, 2011; June 24-27, 2011; and August 15-16, 2011.
He has also informed us that he will be gone September 15-19, 2011 and October 14-21, 2011. The Deputy performs the County Attorney’s duties as county coroner when Mr. Sutter is not available. To date Mr. Sutter has gone on 4 coroner calls, and the Deputy has gone on 8.
12. On August 15, 2011, Mr. Sutter left at noon to go to a Kansas City to a baseball game. On August 16, 2011, around 8 a.m., the Deputy had to go to Waco for a coroner call.
Since no one was available to handle court, all of the juvenile court morning arraignments had to be continued, and there was a full docket set for the afternoon.
When Mr. Sutter arrived at 2 p.m. on the 16th, the Deputy informed Mr. Sutter of the events in the morning and that we were swamped in the afternoon as a result. Mr. Sutter stayed in the office for about 10 more minutes and went home, even though he knew how busy we were.
13. Since September 2010 to the present, Mr. Sutter has had his secretary, Jamie, write a factual basis for each file he handles so that he does not have to read the police reports.
He is not familiar with the facts in his cases, and once commented to Jamie that he didn’t know what a case was about and Jamie pointed to the file cabinet drawer and said that he could look at them anytime, and he looked at Jamie and rolled his eyes and said “well, that’s not going to happen.”
14. Before the Board spoke to Mr. Sutter on August 23, 2011, the case load in the office was as follows:
Juvenile Files: 47
Mental Health Board: 3
Child Support: 100+
Coroner Calls: 8
Misdemeanors: [DUI] 37
Juvenile Files: 1
Coroner Calls: 4
15. During a preliminary hearing on a felony child abuse the Deputy is handling, Mr. Sutter sat next to her during the hearing and made inappropriate comments into the microphone at the prosecutor’s table about various witnesses and evidence.
When the medical expert, who is female, walked to the witness stand, Mr. Sutter said “she has terrible legs” and the entire courtroom, including the witness heard it. It caused the Deputy and the witness to pause and look at each other, and was distracting to both of them.
When Mr. Sutter saw a photo of the child sitting on the prosecutor table, he leaned into the Deputy and said into the microphone that he was “gross” more than once. The child’s mother was sitting directly behind him and voiced her disgust to the Deputy through her attorney after the hearing.
Even after the court found in favor for the prosecution at the preliminary hearing, and while still in the courtroom, Mr. Sutter told the Deputy “we better plead this down”, and the defense attorney, and the child’s mother heard him.
16. The Deputy County Attorney has tried on different occasions to even-out the caseload. Her latest attempt was giving Mr. Sutter two probation violation hearing involving DUI convictions since Mr. Sutter handles the DUI cases.
Mr. Sutter asked the Deputy what he was supposed to do at the first hearings, and she advised him that the first appearance did not require presenting any evidence, and Mr. Sutter replied “good because if there was, I wouldn’t be handling it”.
17. The Deputy also advised Mr. Sutter that he would have to handle a felony drug case against a particular defendant because she had represented this person in private practice.
Mr. Sutter replied that “you’re going to have to get over that if you want to stay employed”. He said this in the courtroom, with a Sheriff’s Deputy present.
18. In December 2010, a defendant in a felony theft case was bonded out of jail and spoke to Jamie’s husband at the Living Water Mission, about how much he liked the county attorney because he had come in and talked to Mr. Sutter about his charges before he had an attorney, and Mr. Sutter told him “you’re going to be easy, get yourself a lawyer and we’ll plead this thing down.” He subsequently dismissed two of three charges he filed against this defendant.
We were very reluctant to come forward and express these concerns because we have been concerned that we might lose our jobs if we spoke out about Mr. Sutter’s behavior, and we were also afraid that the behaviors might get worse if we discussed them publicly, and that is why we have tried to keep our concerns to ourselves until this time.
However, Mr. Sutter’s rejection of our attempts to change his behavior makes it necessary that we bring these matters to your attention.
The County Attorney’s Office has a high case load and it requires the County Attorney to handle numerous types of matters for the citizens of York County. These include, but are not limited to, child abuse and neglect cases, child support, sexual assault, child pornography, sex offender registration and other felonies, DUI cases, mental health board cases, county tax foreclosures, coroner duties, and civil county matters.
In order to effectively carry out the responsibilities of the office the County Attorney as well as the Deputy must be competent and willing to divide these duties so that they can be properly handled. The Deputy County Attorney handles the bulk of the office responsibilities due to Mr. Sutter’s refusal to do them, and as a result we simply aren’t able to do what needs to be done to represent the people of York County in handling all of these duties.
Also, Mr. Sutter’s disrespectful attitude toward other officials, the public as well as each of us has been very alarming to observe from a public official in his position.
At this point it is apparent that if Mr. Sutter continues his position that cases will not be prosecuted as they should be and the other duties of the office will continue to be neglected. Much of what the office does is not observed by the general public, but our responsibilities affect the people of York County in many ways. We are concerned that the people of this County will not receive the treatment and attention that they should be given if this situation continues.
Candace Dick, Deputy County Attorney
Source: NY Times