Marion County Sheriff, FDLE investigates Kuhn affair
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
Sheriff Ed Dean said Wednesday that he has opened an internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Undersheriff Dan Kuhn.
Dean said the inquiry by the agency's Internal Affairs unit would “parallel” a state investigation into allegations that Kuhn, the Republican nominee for sheriff, had an extramarital affair.
“I'm extremely disappointed with the nature of the allegation. I know my feelings I have for any person have to be superseded by my commitment to the public and to our core values,” said Dean, who had endorsed Kuhn in the GOP primary against Chris Blair, the former head of the agency's major crimes unit.
Dean on Monday had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the charges, after they were brought to his attention by Ocala lawyer Charles Holloman, who represents the woman involved.
On Monday, the woman filed a formal complaint against Kuhn, who confessed to the affair and said he and his wife have rebuilt their relationship. Kuhn on Monday volunteered to take unpaid leave until the investigation is complete.
Dean said he surrendered relevant materials concerning the affair to FDLE on Tuesday to launch that investigation.
That includes an inch-thick binder of documents that includes the woman's detailed accounts of her sexual trysts with Kuhn, sworn statements attesting to the affair by her and her husband, copies of cellphone records and email correspondence, and references to internal policies that Kuhn allegedly violated during the relationship.
The records indicate Kuhn's relationship lasted from November 2010 to January 2011.
Dean said he had not read the documents in the binder, but added that he has been briefed on its contents.
While the sheriff could not provide a timetable on when he thinks the investigation will be concluded, he said FDLE has acknowledged his request for a speedy yet thorough probe into the complaint.
“I believe strongly that the people have the right to know before this election, and I've done everything I can to expedite that,” the sheriff said.
Kuhn faces Constitution Party candidate Bernie DeCastro in the Nov. 6 contest for sheriff.
Dean said since the scandal broke on Monday he has met with senior staff members and deputies, and promised to keep them informed as much as possible.
The sheriff described the allegations against Kuhn as “devastating” and added that his staff is in “great shock and disbelief.”
Although the Sheriff's Office has been tarnished by the scandal, Dean said he believes the agency will recover.
“I'm confident we can maintain our standards,” Dean said. “We will get through all of this.”
Dean declined to comment on whether Kuhn's job as second in command of the agency is in jeopardy. That, he added, would wait until the investigations were complete.
Yet Dean, who has fired deputies in the past for similar allegations, added, “I believe my record in 14 years of dealing with issues such as this has been crystal clear.”
“The same rules apply to everybody,” he added.
Running the Sheriff's Office's internal investigation is Leo Smith, head of the agency's Internal Affairs Division. Smith supported Kuhn in the election and contributed to Kuhn's campaign.
But Dean was confident that would not cloud the outcome, noting that FDLE was reviewing the same materials and that the outcome of both inquiries should be the same.
Dean said it wasn't clear why the woman, identified by her attorney as Melissa Cook, filed a complaint now, or what she hoped to gain by doing so.
But, he added, “The allegations are serious enough that it requires an investigation. If anybody knew that these matters that were alleged had occurred — and they were themselves seeking office — they should have come to me,” Dean said.
That was a reference to Blair, who spent 35 years with the Sheriff's Office before retiring in 2010.
Contact Austin Miller at 867-4118, or at austin.miller @starbanner.com, or Bill Thompson at 867-4117 or at firstname.lastname@example.org