Despite criticism from some city commissioners, Frankfort Mayor Bill May intends to pursue an independent investigation into the capital city's police department in the wake of an investigation of a bourbon theft/steroid trafficking ring.
May proposed an independent investigation this month after Mike Wells, a DARE officer for the department, resigned in April. Wells, 42, has not been charged, but he allegedly was involved in a transaction for steroids with Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger, who was indicted in the bourbon theft/steroid investigation conducted by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators say Curtsinger was centrally involved in a criminal syndicate that allegedly stole more than $100,000 worth of bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, where Curtsinger was a senior employee, and Wild Turkey in Anderson County. Curtsinger has pleaded not guilty in Franklin Circuit Court to charges of trafficking in controlled substances, receiving stolen property and engaging in an organized criminal syndicate.
As a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, Wells went into schools to warn students of the dangers of drugs.
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May said he has been advised that any independent investigation of the police department should wait until the sheriff's investigation is finished.
"In one sense, it does make sense to wait," May said. "But in the other sense, I wanted to go ahead and get something going so we could clear the department and get back to normal.
"If there are more people involved, which I hope there isn't, ... then we can tell everybody, 'Folks, we had one officer who made a serious, serious violation of our policy and the law, we dealt with it, and now let's get back to serving the community.'"
May first spoke of his desire for an independent investigation in an interview with the Frankfort State Journal. Later, during a June 8 commission work session, the mayor came under criticism from City Commissioners Robert Roach and John Sower for publicly proposing the investigation before discussing it with the commission.
Roach and Sower had no comment when contacted by phone last week. Commissioners Lynn Bowers and Tommy Haynes did not return emailed requests for comment.
May would need the city commission's authorization to spend money for an independent investigation. The cost isn't known, but May said it wouldn't be a "blank check."
He said citizens have supported his idea for an independent investigation.
"I've had so many folks in the community say, 'Dude, you're right. You've got to do that,'" May said. "And police officers have said, ... 'We appreciate you standing up for us and wanted to get that cleared.'"
Frankfort police Chief Jeff Abrams said he would support an independent investigation to clear the air.
"If that's something that the commission decides as a group to vote on and to sanction, I would support it completely," Abrams said. "I think it would benefit the community to have that peace and sense of knowledge that things are OK, as they should be."
Shortly after Wells resigned, Abrams said in a statement that "other allegations" of police officers' involvement in the theft of bourbon or illegal use of steroids were "untrue and have not been substantiated. The members of the Frankfort Police Department are committed to serving the city of Frankfort with honor and integrity."
Nevertheless, questions remain because references to the police department pop up in the hundreds of pages of investigative reports about the bourbon/steroid case that were filed in Franklin Circuit Court by an assistant commonwealth's attorney.
For example, Wells told investigators that he received a bottle of rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon that was to be donated to the Kentucky Tactical Officers Association, according to court documents.
The bottle "was asked for by the Frankfort Police Department via letterhead and was supposed to be given away" as a raffle item at a conference of the association, Wells told investigators.
According to court documents, Wells said he gave the bottle to another Frankfort police officer who replied, "This is pretty nice. I think I will keep it for my collection." The officer, who was not charged, said "he would likely give a donation to the general fund as opposed to raffling it" at the conference.
Wells told investigators he never saw the bottle given away at the conference.
In an interview, Abrams said he could not substantiate this story during the department's internal investigation.
In addition, Abrams' name was included in an exchange of phone texts obtained from Toby Curtsinger's phone.
Abrams said his wife exercised at Julie's Fitness & Training Center, a Frankfort gym operated by Julie Curtsinger, Toby Curtsinger's wife. Julie Curtsinger has pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking in controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia and engaging in an organized criminal syndicate.
In February 2013, Abrams said he received a group text from people who have an interest in hunting or fishing. "They were encouraging people to reach out to their legislators to vote 'no' on legislation proposed that would require private citizens to register their firearms with the state police," Abrams said.
"It appears I sent a group text out, and Toby Curtsinger was one of those people that received that text," Abrams said. "Basically, he responded to me by saying 'Just called,'" meaning that he just called the number to express opposition to the bill.
"And I responded 'Thx.'
"I think it's garnered some media attention because of the severity of the allegations against him (Curtsinger) and the fact that I knew him, and due to my position that has caused some attention to be drawn. It's really a harmless association."
In any case, the mayor said his "number one interest right now is to get to the bottom of this whole thing, to find out if anyone else was involved, and if not, we clear the department and we get back to normal."
But May said, "I'm not going to back off on wanting to do something. It's just trying to figure out the next step."