D.A. says Lemhouse investigation isn't public record

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston has ruled employee confidentiality trumps public interest in the case of a Medford Police Department investigation into former Lt. Greg Lemhouse, an Ashland City Council member.

Huddleston on Friday denied the Mail Tribune's public records request seeking access to the internal investigation into Lemhouse. The 38-year-old resigned in January in the middle of the investigation, which sources close to the department say was over his conduct within the force.

Medford City Attorney John Huttl refused to make the investigation public, saying there was "no investigation of any crime or other statutory violation. The conduct did not involve threats to the general public, nor risks to public funds or other assets."

Huddleston said after reviewing the city's documents, he agreed with Huttl. "I do not find that there is a compelling public interest in disclosure," Huddleston wrote in a letter to the paper.

"While Greg Lemhouse is no longer with the Medford Police Department, and there is no reason for current employees to have any concerns about potential retaliation on his part, it is clear that government employees would be less willing to talk to administrative investigators about co-workers, particularly those in a supervisory role, if they might anticipate that their comments would later be made public," Huddleston wrote.

Lemhouse did not return calls from the Mail Tribune on Friday. When interviewed in mid-January, Lemhouse denied any wrongdoing, that he was under investigation, or that he had been placed on administrative leave before his resignation.

Stating his job with MPD had "not been as fulfilling" in the past year, the 17-year veteran police officer said he was leaving to start his own security training and consulting business.

"I was not forced out," Lemhouse said.

Affidavits from Douglas Detling, the city's human resources director, and Deputy Police Chief Tim Doney, confirmed Lemhouse was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 6-11, just before his resignation. Both documents also state under the city's personnel rules, "being on paid administrative leave is not discipline."

Doney, the second-highest ranking MPD officer, said in his statement that he conducted interviews in the matter which "involved internal city and departmental regulations and not a violation of state law or other public policy."

"The witnesses in some interviews provided information to me in confidence," Doney said in the statement, adding the department's ability to conduct investigations would be harmed if the information was disclosed.

"Department morale would decline if information submitted in confidence was disclosed," he said.

Huddleston said the newspaper could appeal his decision in Jackson County Circuit Court, an option the newspaper is exploring, said Cathy Noah, city editor of the Mail Tribune and the Tidings.

"The Mail Tribune believes it is in the public's best interest to know the results of the investigation into Lemhouse, who not only remains licensed as a police officer but still has a position of power within the Ashland community," she said.

"We're disappointed in Huddleston's decision," Noah added. "The only way to know whether the information is relevant to the public is to see it."

Sanne Specht is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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