County Police Chief Warns County Executive About Witness Tampering
CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOX) - KMOX News has obtained a letter sent by St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch to County Executive Charlie Dooley, chastising him for a conversation a member of his administration had with a lieutenant colonel.
“Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Gregory was summoned to the office of the Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls,” the letter states. “The purpose for the conversation was to ask Lieutenant Colonel Gregory for information that I provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the police crime lab project.”
Fitch is requesting an FBI investigation of a $3.75 million contract awarded to a company co-owned by Police Board Chairman Gregory Sansone. Dooley said Tuesday night that he supports such an investigation.
In the letter to Dooley Thursday, Chief Fitch suggests that Dooley’s own investigation could interfere with a federal investigation.
“Lieutenant Colonel Gregory was highly offended that he was asked to breach confidential information regarding this information,” Fitch says in the letter. “Attempting to circumvent the usual course of a law enforcement investigation is at the very least unethical and unprofessional.”
Fitch goes on to say that several members of the St. Louis County Police Department may be asked to testify in the federal investigation. He calls on Dooley’s administration to “not have contact with our employees regarding this issue.”
In the letter, Fitch directed Dooley to “18 USC 1512,” the section of the U.S. criminal code that defines “tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant.”
In an interview Thursday afternoon, Earls denied his discussion with Lieutenant Colonel Gregory was an attempt to circumvent a federal investigation. Instead, he says he asked Gregory about Fitch’s whereabouts after the chief missed two important meetings.
“I was just looking for what were the issues associated with the chief not attending two cabinet-level meetings in a row yesterday,” Earls said. “Specifically, I told the lieutenant colonel that I did not want to interfere in an ongoing investigation but I did point out that I was reading in the newspaper about issues between us and the police department and I thought that that was not the right way for us to communicate.”
According to Earls, Dooley was only interested in learning which information had been turned over to the FBI.
“I certainly didn’t realize that Lieutenant Gregory was offended at the time,” Earls added. “He’s entitled to how he feels about the conversation, I guess, but that was not my intent, to pump him for information and, in fact, he told me that he didn’t know what the issue was and we agreed that since he didn’t know and I didn’t know, we didn’t really have anything to talk about in that regard.”
The letter – sent to Earls, the Board of Police Commissioners, and the FBI, in addition to Dooley – was obtained by KMOX News and several other media outlets early Thursday afternoon. Earls says the haste with which it was leaked suggests he is being targeted.
“It appears that this has gotten to the press awfully quickly which the combination of addressing it to the FBI and then to you, Allison, I guess is an attempt to intimidate me,” Earls told a KMOX News reporter. “I will tell you outright that I am not intimidated.”
As for the chief himself, officer Randy Vaughn said Thursday that Fitch “won’t be commenting further and the letter speaks for itself.” Calls to Dooley’s office were not immediately returned.