Brown County Prosecuting Attorney Jessica Little is asking the Ohio Attorney General for a formal opinion on the qualifications of Brown County Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger to hold that office. Little took the action after receiving a request to do so from the attorney of Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau...but Varnau herself is denying that she wanted an official Attorney General opinion on the matter. In an e-mail to the Brown County Press, on Jan. 23, Varnau wrote "I did not request Ms. Little to forward my request (for an opinion) to the Attorney General (AG), as she has already provided me with her official legal opinion, on January 18th, that is completely sufficient to cover my concern on liability I potentially faced without it." Brown County Prosecuting Attorney Jessica Little is asking the Ohio Attorney General for a formal opinion on the qualifications of Brown County Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger to hold that office. Little took the action after receiving a request to do so from the attorney of Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau...but Varnau herself is denying that she wanted an official Attorney General opinion on the matter. In an e-mail to the Brown County Press, on Jan. 23, Varnau wrote "I did not request Ms. Little to forward my request (for an opinion) to the Attorney General (AG), as she has already provided me with her official legal opinion, on January 18th, that is completely sufficient to cover my concern on liability I potentially faced without it."So, Doctor Judy would have you believe that she has nothing to do with this request, that this is all overreach and sensational journalism. What are we supposed to believe, that her lawyer acted alone? Come on now, this is a bit much! These Varnaus are some of the most vindictive, pathetic sore losers I have ever seen. Evidently, Judy doesn't like to talk, so the Press had to do email exchanges. Makes one wonder, is Judy afraid she will deviated from Dennis's storyline, or is Dennis doing the typing?...more from the story:
In her e-mail on the matter, Varnau continued, "I asked her for the same legal opinion that I requested of the AG, on the AG's suggestion for me to consult with her." When responding to the written question "Do you have a response to her decision?", Varnau replied "That's her decision not my request. I did not ask her to do that." To the written question "If the Attorney General responds as they did last week, that the sheriff is qualified to serve, what will be your next step?", Varnau replied "There is no next step. I am completely satisfied with Ms. Little's official legal opinion. Ask her for a copy of that opinion." (Little declined to release her opinion to The Brown County Press, citing attorney-client privilege to Varnau. Varnau was asked directly for the opinion via e-mail and a response had not been received at press time.) Varnau was then asked in the e-mail: "If the Attorney General responds that the Sheriff is not qualified, what will your response be?" Her reply: "It does not matter to me what the AG may say, as I already have an opinion from Ms. Little, legal counsel for county coroner. It's finished as far as I am concerned. My question has been satisfactorily answered." Varnau was asked other questions via e-mail. At press time, answers to the following questions had not been received: "Jessica Little and Dwayne Wenninger are both maintaining that you have an agenda against the Sheriff. How do you respond to that?" "Do you believe that a productive working relationship with Wenninger is possible? If not, why not?" "Little is saying you disparaged her character in your Dec. 30 letter to the Attorney General. Do you feel you did so?" (Varnau wrote in the Dec. 30 letter "The county prosecutor, however worked diligently to prevent the unsealing of Mr. Wenninger's trial record..."This last section refers to the schizophrenic paranoid notion that Dennis Varnau has that there is a vast conspiracy against him and protecting Wenninger. Back to the article:
"The Sheriff has also issued policy that states that no BCSO investigation will take place at the scenes of accidental deaths, natural deaths or suicides. Are you concerned that having to generate investigation requests for the prosecutors office will add to the workload and time commitment of the coroners office?" "Are you prepared to store evidence and comply with chain of custody issues?" As referenced in the questions above, the Brown County Sheriff's Office has changed certain procedures regarding death scenes. Among the changes are no investigations will be conducted at death scenes where the death has been ruled to have been by natural causes, accident or suicide. Any investigation of those scenes will fall to the coroner's office. Retired Ripley Police Officer Don Newman has been named as Varnau's investigator. If the coroner feels that a criminal investigation needs to take place, Ohio Revised Code states that the coroner must request such an investigation from the Prosecuting Attorney, who would then forward the request to the agency with jurisdiction. Retired Ripley Police Officer Don Newman has been named as Varnau's investigator. At Homicide scenes, Wenninger has declared that BCSO personnel will secure any weapon used in the interest of safety and will process evidence outside the declared death scene. The size and scope of the death scene is at the discretion of the coroner. The policy also states that "Upon the Coroner's order to remove the body, photos and documentation of injuries will be completed with the permission of the Coroner." Wenningers policy also clearly states that at all death scenes "The body and the area near the body shall not be disturbed." According to Ohio Revised Code, if a coroner determines that a body has been disturbed without permission, a person found to have done so can be charged with a fourth degree misdemeanor. Another major change is that notification of next-of-kin in all death cases is now the exclusive responsibility of the coroner, as stated in Ohio Revised Code. "That's part of her job and we used to do that as a courtesy to Dr. McKinley, but we are short-staffed and we are going to be turning that back over to her.", Wenninger said. Regarding the request that Little forwarded to the Attorney General, Wenninger said of Varnau, "They are just grasping at straws. I have won every legal challenge and I have nothing to hide." Little said that she feels that Varnau is already operating as if Wenninger is not legally qualified to serve. "She already believes the sheriff is not the legal sheriff. She is not asking the Attorney General to assume that. She believes that. She just wanted to know how she should handle the evidence because he's not the lawful sheriff." Little added, "I'm very disappointed that Dr, Varnau has maintained this belief that the sheriff is not the lawful sheriff of the county." She also questioned the working relationship between Varnau and the BCSO. "I am very suspect of her motives in light of that letter that she sent to the Attorney General. It was my belief that when she took office that she wanted to communicate and that she wanted to work together and that letter shows me that that was not her plan.", Little said. She said she believes that Varnau's stance will eventually become a problem as time goes on. "Since Dr. Varnau believes that the sheriff is not the lawful sheriff of the county and that his deputies are not legally sworn, I am very concerned because I don't know how there can be a working relationship if you don't believe that a person has a role or a place in the proceedings." Wenninger agreed, saying "It's obvious there is another agenda, but I have a sheriff's office to run and she has a coroner's office to run. She has indicated several times that she wants to go by the letter of the law, so that's what we're going to do...We have some people on the staff that do not trust her. We will work with her, but we don't trust her. That's why we've made some policy changes." Wenninger added that he thinks Varnau's agenda stems from the long running court battle her husband, Dennis Varnau, waged against Wenninger regarding his qualifications to serve as Sheriff. "If they think they can go through the coroners office to try to get me, they have another think coming, because it's not going to happen because we go by the rules and we do what's right."Little is exactly right. Despite numerous court cases and the will of the electorate of Brown County in several elections, she is acting as if Wenninger is not qualified to hold office. This is not the stance of someone who "says the matter is finished and wants to be a team player" as Varnau has said she has wanted to do. This woman, whether of her own volition or at the insistence and demand of her sore loser husband, is using the powers of her office for a personal agenda against the sheriff that will cost the integrity of county law enforcement and the taxpayers. But, to the Varnaus, who cares about the citizens? After all, Dennis wanted to be annointed Sheriff after the voters rejected him. The article concludes with an emailed statement from Dr. Judy:
DR. VARNAU'S RESPONSE TO BROWN COUNTY PRESS ARTICLE Here's my response to all the prating contained in The Brown County Press article published in the January 20, 2013 issue, "Sheriff to Coroner: 'No trust at all.'" For more than the last four years my husband was involved in a legal challenge of Mr. Wenninger's credentials to hold and execute the office of sheriff. The facts presented in the court record created are simple enough for most lay persons to understand and come to the same conclusion as I. He did not initially meet the requirements to be a valid candidate, and that initial deficiency led to a complete loss of his police certificate by operation of law all within his first term in office. This is clear to anyone interested and intellectually honest enough to "connect the dots." One does not have to be legally trained to understand this fact. A modicum of common sense and logic are the only requisites necessary to reach the same conclusion. Every forum presented with the question of Mr. Wenninger's legality avoided addressing the issue on its merits and instead dismissed every petition on procedural grounds. That left the issue in question "legally" unanswered. Instead, every decision specifically held that Mr. Wenninger's qualifications could not be challenged by Dennis Varnau. Therefore, the underlying question of qualifications survives every court decision made to date. I know this to be a fact even though others, including some attorneys, may have difficulty understanding this legal reality. Therefore, I asked the Attorney General's (AG's) Office for a legal opinion on my personal dilemma to protect me from any future legal liability, in my performance as coroner, knowing what I knew to be irrefutable fact. I was aware the county prosecutor would have a genuine "conflict of interest" handling the question under her professional code of conduct as counsel representing many independent county office clients simultaneously. The question was solely my personal concern; it did not affect the sheriff's office since my husband's case had become final when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to accept his case for review. The maligning of my intent and motivation to become coroner started with an article published in The News Democrat that accused me of having an "agenda." That accusation was nurtured into an "agenda against Mr. Wenninger." Then it was the Chief Deputy who started accusing me of being out to bring charges against him and his deputies in the performance of my duties. This concern of the Chief Deputy led to three separate meetings to discuss "my policy" as coroner. The third meeting, which included the sheriff, resulted with an overall understanding between all parties involved. I thought everything was settled from that point onward. I asked the prosecutor the same question presented to the AG, and received her formal legal opinion that completely settled the matter for me forever, as far as I was concerned. Never did I ever expect the prosecutor, knowing the unnecessary tensions that had previously been present between the SO and my office, would unilaterally inform the SO of my personal request for an opinion to the AG to cover my personal legal concerns. I still don't know why she chose to reveal the existence of my AG letter to the sheriff's office without first consulting me before doing so. What would be her "agenda" in poisoning the past strained relationship anew after it had already been settled during the last meeting with the sheriff present on January 3, 2013? I had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chief Deputy in the presence of the prosecutor, but found, after my first death scene on New Year's Day, that I should not be involved in approving another office's policies, where I found that doing so could result in the perception that I approved of what had transpired on that day. Mr. Irvin had passed away during his sleep. Mrs. Irvin called her neighbor around 1100 hrs to inform him of Mr. Irvin's death. The neighbor responded to the Irvin's home within about 10 minutes, only to find Mrs. Irvin had shot herself. 911 staged the Fayetteville EMS at its station within minutes of the call. The police chief was standing by with the squad awaiting clearance from the SO to accompany its squad to the scene. After a while the EMS and police chief took it upon themselves to stage on the highway close to the residence, which was about a five minute drive away from the fire station. More than 30 minutes had passed. The neighbor flagged the squad down to come assist Mrs. Irvin, because she was still alive. The squad and police chief then immediately responded to Mrs. Irvin's bedside to administer first aid. The squad took Mrs. Irvin to Clinton Memorial and arrived about 1206 hrs. Mrs. Irvin passed away the next day at Miami Hospital. The first deputy did not arrive on the scene until 1155 hrs. That incident left me with a deep concern that the "county mutual aid agreement" approved by the prosecutor and SO may have contributed to Mrs. Irvin's death as she laid there bleeding and in pain from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her chest. That's when I realized that I should not be approving policies outside of my own office where they may at the very least be defective and incompetently drafted to potentially create constitutional claims of civil liability against the county and those involved in delivering emergency medical care. This unfortunate incident was probably instrumental in the resignation of the Fayetteville Fire/EMS chief. I fail to understand why my own dilemma of personal legal concern had to be blown up into a "big news item" as the top story on the front page, where the whole article was presented in such a way to denigrate my reputation and that of the Coroner's Office. Nothing has changed in the way business is accomplished by the coroner, except that I, my deputy, or investigator, will be present at death scenes more frequently than that of the last administration. Dr. Judith A. Varnau Brown County CoronerDo you smell what the coroner is cooking? Yep, more BS. She doesn't think questioning the qualifications and ability to serve of the main law enforcement officer of the county is a "big news item"? Is this woman incompetent, naive, or just a puppet of her vindictive husband? Who knows, but it makes the county look bad. The citizens of Brown County deserve better than a vindictive coroner who cares more for a vendetta that for serving the county.