An investigation into the operation of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office evidence room found that an employee with access to the room was using methamphetamine on the job, and that her supervisor ignored an audit and repeated complaints about how the evidence room was run.
The employee and her supervisor have been fired, and the Weber County District Attorney’s Office has opened a criminal investigation on the technician.
While the sheriff’s office did not name either former employee, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, through a public records request that included county personnel disciplinary records, found that the supervisor was Lt. Kevin Burns. Before his firing, Burns had been promoted to chief deputy of corrections.
Burns failed to act on an evidence room audit that identified “serious issues,” the news release said. He also ignored multiple complaints from investigators and prosecutors about the way the evidence room was run, the release said.
The investigation concluded Burns had exhibited “a lack of supervision, leadership and dereliction of duty,” the news release said.
The Salt Lake Tribune made a similar public records request for the disciplinary records, which was denied. The attorney’s office had apparently requested to various county entities that they not release documents regarding the evidence room employee and her dismissal, due to the pending investigation, Bryan Barron, a deputy civil attorney with the Weber County attorney’s office, said Thursday.
“Human Resources was not aware of that request” at the time the office released documents to the Standard-Examiner, he said, but was later informed of the request and, subsequently, denied a records request from The Salt Lake Tribune.
Weber County Attorney Chris Allred said his office is investigating the technician, not Burns.
The sheriff’s office conducted the internal investigation as part of an effort to “correct deficiencies and restore public trust through transparency,” the release said.
Sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Matt Jensen said he would not identify the former employees or comment on whether drugs or other evidence was stolen.
“We are not answering anything drug-related at this time, because the criminal case is ongoing,” he said.
Allred confirmed that during the internal investigation, the technician admitted to taking meth tied to 15 to 20 cases.
Burns received complaints by “experienced narcotic investigators, detectives, crime scene technicians, deputies and felony prosecutors from the Weber County Attorney’s Office,” according to the news release, but ignored them.
The release does not say how long the evidence tech, who was fired Jan. 12, is suspected of working while on drugs, or stealing from the evidence room.
Allred said his office is participating in an inventory review of the evidence room, adding that the repercussions of the technician’s actions could extend past the 15 to 20 cases she admitted to tampering with.
“It absolutely impacts the integrity of the whole process, at least as pertains to any cases that have evidence in that evidence room,” Allred said. “It will certainly, unquestionably, be an issue for any case where that evidence was impacted.”
Allred added that once his office identifies cases where evidence has been tampered with or is missing, it will contact the defense attorneys involved.