Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Charges against chief dropped

Mason will provide car for bailiffs to end dispute

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - Judge George Parker dismissed contempt charges against the police chief Tuesday, nearly a week after city officials promised to provide a car so the judge's bailiffs could transport defendants to court.

In dropping the charges, Parker, in his court entry, alluded to findings in a City Council committee's investigation of the events leading up to the May 15 arrest of Chief Ron Ferrell.

The investigation by council members Tom Grossmann and Charlene Pelfrey concluded that Parker was right in thinking that police were required to transport all prisoners to his court because they had signed documents that made officers bailiffs of the court.

"The court takes judicial notice of the findings of the Court Liaison Committee of Mason City Council stated in their memorandum of May 28, 2003," Parker wrote in his entry filed at 10:24 a.m. Tuesday.

"Therefore in the interest of bringing peace to this matter and within the City of Mason, Mason Police and the Warren County Sheriff's Office, and to promote public confidence and respect for the law and an independent judiciary, the Court hereby dismissed the contempt charges against Ron Ferrell."

Parker did not return two calls to his office and cell phone on Tuesday.

Grossmann called Parker's actions "wise" and said the judge used "considerable restraint."

"I am pleased the judge has seen to it in his discretion to not go forward with the matter and to bring peace to it," Grossmann said. "Hopefully, we will have a new era of cooperation and seeking to accommodate the court's legitimate interests in performing services to the public."

City Council issued a prepared statement, saying Ferrell's arrest stemmed from a "misunderstanding" and pledging cooperation with the court in the future.

Ferrell was due in court June 12 for a hearing on the contempt case.

Parker had him arrested on two charges of contempt after the chief refused to transport an inmate in a case that was filed by sheriff's deputies.

At the time, sheriff's officials couldn't convey the prisoner because of staffing issues.

Ferrell said he didn't have officers available either, and that he was acting on a legal opinion from the city attorney that city police were only responsible for transporting defendants charged by Mason officers.

The contempt charges alleged that Ferrell directly refused Parker's order to transport a prisoner and that he told his officers to do the same.

"I can tell you the entire thing has been very humiliating and embarrassing to my family, and I'm glad that the charges have been dropped," said Ferrell, who has continued to run the police force since his arrest.

The city's proposal to Parker also called for city police officers to resign as bailiffs of the court, so they are not legally obligated to provide blanket transports for the court.


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