Criminal charges are not expected to be filed against a former Bulloch County Sheriff’s investigator whose resignation followed accusations he acted against policy, as well as the law.
Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson said Kent Munsey will not face charges from his office because the statute of limitations has passed to prosecute Munsey for any alleged infractions he may have committed.
Munsey settled a civil suit in October filed against him by Bulloch County Sheriff’s investigative secretary Ami Howell Leinhard in June 2015. The lawsuit accused him of using money from her late father’s life insurance policies for his own personal gain. Munsey was executor of Del Howell’s estate and Leinhard was the beneficiary.
The alleged acts took place in 2012, after Howell’s death, according to court documents.
In a statement made to the Statesboro Herald Friday, Munsey denied any wrongdoing in the incident.
“I stand behind the facts my case,” he said. “The fact is that the case was dismissed upon the settlement agreement.”
He said he settled not as an admission of guilt, but because of financial reasons. “The cost of going to trial is extremely expensive and it was more economically advantageous for me to settle this out of court, just as 95 percent of civil cases are settled out of court.”
After the suit was settled in October, an internal affairs investigation began, with Munsey being suspended until the outcome. After the investigation was complete, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Inv. Rick Rountree reported county policy violations including “conduct unbecoming,” “lying/false swearing” and “criminal activities/violations of the law,” according to records of the investigation requested by the Statesboro Herald.
Munsey was asked to “resign in lieu of termination,” according to the investigation records.
The resignation in lieu of termination, as well as the internal investigation findings, were forwarded to the Georgia POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) Council, said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jared Akins. POST officials will review the case and determine whether Munsey will retain his certification, Akins said.
During his investigation, Rountree spoke with local judges and assistant district attorneys, who told him Munsey’s alleged mishandling of funds and being untruthful had damaged his credibility as an investigator. Munsey’s actions could also be considered theft by conversion, according to Rountree’s reports
Munsey was suspended three days for the offense of conduct unbecoming of an officer, and was asked to resign in lieu of termination for the offenses of “lying/false swearing” and “criminal acts/violations of law,” according to the investigative report.
However, the reports state there will be “no referrals to outside agencies” because the four-year statute of limitations expired. Akins said a referral to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for further investigation was possible, if not for the expired statute of limitations.
The internal investigation
Anderson, Rountree, Akins and Statesboro-Bulloch Crime Suppression Team Capt. Jason Kearney (Munsey’s supervisor) met with Munsey Oct. 24 to discuss the Leinhard civil case. The total amount of money Leinhard received from seven of her father’s life insurance policies totaled $335,110, and Munsey allegedly used $167,000 for his own use, according to the investigation reports.
Munsey settled with Leinhard before the civil trial, signing over the controlling part (two thirds ownership) of a lake house in Hancock County (a $150,000 value) and a check for $35,000. He had allegedly used Leinhard’s money, which he persuaded her to deposit into an account in his name only, to purchase the lake house, according to the reports.
During the internal investigation, Munsey told Anderson he had given Leinhard money on several occasions and didn’t use money for “anything she didn’t know about” or “what was owed him” for operating Howell’s Wrecker Service after Del Howell died.
In interviews with Rountree, Lienhard disagreed, stating Munsey used money that was hers without her permission for his own gain on several occasions, according to the report.
Friday, Munsey told the Statesboro Herald he did no wrong and had Lienhard’s permission for the transactions he made. In court documents and the interview with Rountree, Lienhard disagreed, stating Munsey acted without her consent on several occasions.
“I have testified in courts for 20 years and have never told an untruth,” Munsey said in the statement he submitted to the Herald. “The department had their mind made up prior to me ever resigning. This is known to me because the department locked me out of my computers and office buildings prior to ever hearing my side of the events.
“I saw what I considered ‘the writing on the wall’ at that point,” he said. “The internal investigation was completely one-sided during my interview with the professional standards deputy. Furthermore, I felt like he was dismissing my side of the story as I told it.”
Munsey said he resigned because of the negative atmosphere at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office regarding the case.
“I elected to resign immediately from the Sheriff's Office due to the fact that it was a toxic work environment for me,” he said. “I stand tall behind my 20-plus years of service to this community as a law enforcement officer and my impeccable record.”
During the meeting, Akins brought up the subject of Munsey’s credibility as an investigator. He said Munsey’s credibility with law enforcement and the judicial system had been compromised by Munsey’s taking money from the Howell estate, reports said.
Munsey pointed out the lawsuit had been dismissed due to the settlement and said he felt it should not reflect on his credibility. Akins and Anderson disagreed. Anderson said he received several calls from citizens about the issue.
According to the report, Rountree spoke with Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. “Robbie” Turner, Bulloch County State Court Judge Gary Mikell and Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black about the case and its effect on Munsey’s credibility.
Turner said if there was any issue in the future where Munsey’s credibility was called into question, such as his testimony as an investigator in a criminal case, Turner would allow Michael Classens, who was Leinhard’s attorney in the civil case, to be subpoenaed and use information about the case to impeach Munsey’s testimony, if a defendant so desired, according to the report.
Black also told Rountree that the civil case, its settlement and details included in court documents would affect Munsey’s credibility.
Mikell told Rountree he didn’t know a great deal about the case, as it had never gone to trial, but that he had denied Munsey’s request that the court documents be sealed and therefore not available for public record.
The report also included the fact that Munsey had been charged with contempt of court and fined $250 for “failing to produce certain items” Mikell demanded. When interviewed as part of the internal investigation, Munsey told Rountree he was fined for not showing up for a court hearing because he was on vacation and had not received a subpoena.
Due to the matter being settled, there was no court finding of liability in the civil suit.
Rountree also questioned Classens, who shared with him details of the civil case; and Matt Hube, Munsey’s attorney. Hube did not comment in the case.
Suspension and resignation
On Oct. 28, Rountree interviewed Munsey and issued him an internal affairs investigation warning.
At this time, Munsey told Rountree the $335,110 from Howell’s estate initially was put into a joint account with his name as well as Leinhard’s, but later transferred to an account in his name only so banks would not know Lienhard had the money. She was in foreclosure on another property, and he did this to protect her, he said.
He admitted using Lienhard’s money to buy two thirds interest in the Hancock County lake house, but when asked why he paid nothing from his own funds, he said he and the owner of the other third interest had “paid back taxes of $5,000, power and water bill, and improvements for house” totaling $8,000, according to the report. He had promised to pay Leinhard his share of the debt at a later date, according to court documents regarding the case.
Munsey also admitted depositing one of Howell’s life insurance policy proceeds of $15,000 into the bank, but used $1,100 of that money that was already hers to “pay back” a debt to Leinhard. He told Rountree he felt that insurance policy money was “owed to him,” according to the report.
Court documents regarding the civil case include several instances where Munsey allegedly used money from the checking account, in his name but holding Leinhard’s inheritance, for his own personal gain.
After the Oct. 24 meeting with Rountree, Anderson, Akins and Kearney, Munsey submitted his letter of “resignation in lieu of termination” Nov. 1.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.