Lemhouse put on paid leave before resigning

Sources close to the Medford Police Department allege Ashland City Councilman Greg Lemhouse resigned in the midst of an internal investigation about his conduct within the force.

The Mail Tribune, citing Oregon public record laws that allow disclosure of an internal investigation if a public employee resigned in the middle of it, requested a copy of the documents but was denied by City Attorney John Huttl. The paper then appealed the decision to Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

Huddleston said he received the city's records from Huttl on Wednesday. He is reviewing them and expects to make a decision soon, he said.

Lemhouse did not return calls from the Mail Tribune on Friday. When interviewed shortly after his resignation in mid-January, Lemhouse, 38, said he was not aware of any investigation into his conduct.

"I know I didn't do anything wrong," Lemhouse said.

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. "I left on my own."

Huttl sent sworn affidavits from Douglas Detling, the city's human resources director, and Deputy Police Chief Tim Doney, both of which confirmed Lemhouse was placed on paid administrative leave from Jan. 6 to Jan. 11, just before his resignation, but did not say why. Both documents also stated that 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 swore, adding the department's ability to conduct investigations would be harmed if the information were disclosed.

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

Huttl wrote Lemhouse's conduct "did not involve threats to the general public, nor risks to public funds or other assets. The investigation did not result in discipline. Disclosure of the records would not be in the public interest."

The Mail Tribune argued because Lemhouse is a city councilman in Ashland, with a position of power within the community, that it is in the public's best interest to know the details of an investigation into his conduct within the department.

"There are substantial rumors about Lemhouse that can be addressed only by learning the details of the investigation," the Mail Tribune wrote in its appeal to Huddleston.

The Oregon Public Records manual states internal investigations are normally exempt from public disclosure, but that rule "does not apply when an employee of a public body resigns during an employer investigation or in lieu of disciplinary action."

Huttl's letter to Huddleston requested that should the district attorney determine the records are public, they be returned to Huttl's office so the city can either release them or petition the Jackson County Circuit Court for a private judicial review of Huddleston's decision.

Lemhouse said in January that he'd worked his way up through the ranks as a patrol officer, first working two years with the Ashland Police Department, then the past 15 with Medford police. But the further Lemhouse climbed, the further away from the operational side of police work he became.

"It was not as exciting," Lemhouse said. "We make career changes in our lives. I was looking for some new challenges. I want to strike out on my own. And, most of all, I want to spend more time with my wife and my children."

Lemhouse said he enjoys being a public servant, both as a police officer and as a city councilman, and did not rule out running for a higher office.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email her at sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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