But an investigation by the commission into whether a county councilman abused his power by calling Fries in the middle of an early morning traffic stop continues.
In a unanimous 3-0 vote Friday, the unpaid members of the ethics commission ruled to dismiss a complaint filed against Fries in the wake of a traffic stop involving Allen County Councilman Paul Moss.
The commission – which met for 10 minutes Friday – did not exonerate Fries of any possible ethical violations.
Instead, it found that because Fries is already bound by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association code of ethics, he is exempt from the county’s ordinance.
Thomas Hardin, a local attorney on the ethics commission, said Friday that Fries’ lawyer recently provided information showing the sheriff must adhere to another code of ethics.
According to the county’s own law, elected officials must abide by the county’s ethics ordinance as long as they are “not otherwise subject to a code of ethics.”
The complaint in question, filed by a former county employee against both Fries and Moss, stems from a traffic stop June 2 initiated by a county sheriff’s officer.
During the stop, Moss refused a portable breath test and then called a vacationing Fries on a cellphone. Fries spoke to the officer who stopped Moss and the councilman was allowed to find a ride home.
Neither the officer who initiated the stop nor another county officer at the scene filed a report detailing the incident. But a Fort Wayne police officer who was supposed to administer breath tests to Moss at Allen County Jail did.
Officer Andrew Irick wrote in his report that he contacted a county officer at the scene – not the one who spoke to Fries – to see what was taking them so long to bring Moss to the jail.
He was told there would be no tests.
“I spoke with Officer Stuckey, who advised me that per Sheriff Fries, we were to disregard any further,” Irick wrote in his report.
In the aftermath, Moss said he called Fries to expedite the process of getting a more accurate breath test.
Fries said he showed no favoritism toward Moss and did not order his officers to let Moss go, but instead left the handling of the traffic stop in their hands.
Fries did not return messages for comment Friday.
The man who filed the complaint against Fries and Moss, Philip Pease, railed against the commission’s decision in an email message Friday.
“All county employees and those elected officials not already fully aware of this huge loop-hole should at this point be finding a suitable noncompulsory association with a meaningless Ethics code to join given that this membership would effectively grant a free pass to ignore the Allen County Ethics code with all those ‘consequences,’ ” Pease wrote in an email.
Pease also wrote that he has reached out to the Indiana Sheriff’s Association with several questions, among them how to report a possible ethics violation, which is not indicated on the sheriff’s association’s website.
While relatively short, the code of ethics on the sheriff’s association’s website does cover a variety of topics, and also mandates that sheriffs do not let “personal opinions, party affiliations, or consideration of the status of others to alter” how they enforce the law.
Despite the sheriff’s dismissal from the complaint, the commission is still looking into whether Moss violated the county’s ethics ordinance by calling Fries.
After the ethics commission met, Hardin said Moss has also tried to argue that he should be exempt from the county’s ethics ordinance since Indiana does have ethical guidelines for elected officials.
But Hardin noted that those are sprinkled throughout state law.
“That isn’t a specific code of ethics,” he said.
Members of the ethics commission – which along with Hardin include former judge Tom Ryan and local business owner Wendy Stein – have sent written questions to the police officers involved.
Answers to those questions are due to the commission by Oct. 9, Hardin said.
The commission will meet again Oct. 29.