MERCED -- An outside investigation into claims of unethical behavior by a Merced County Sheriff's Department commander is nearing completion, officials acknowledged this week.
However, the report conducted by a private investigator is costing the county $21,498.19, but isn't being made available to the public, according to Merced County counsel.
In January, Kathy Mathis, a former sheriff's dispatcher, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that she was retaliated against after refusing to continue a sexual relationship with her supervisor, Cmdr. James Buttrey, who oversees corrections.
Buttrey couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
When county officials first learned of the allegations, they didn't release any details about claims because of confidentiality concerns. Instead, they hired outside investigator Betty Kelepecz of Public Safety Consulting Inc., a law enforcement consulting firm, to look into the allegations.
A preliminary report by Kelepecz was purportedly completed sometime last week, and a final report is expected to be issued to Buttrey's supervisors soon.
The only sheriff's managers who rank higher than Buttrey are Undersheriff Tom Cavallero and Sheriff Mark Pazin. Sources have confirmed that neither Pazin nor Cavallero have received a copy of the final report.
A Public Records Act request filed by the Sun-Star on Monday was denied by the county counsel's office, citing personnel privacy matters and the California Evidence Code.
Mathis said in her EEOC complaint that she was transferred to the Corrections Division with the understanding that she would "go places" if she kept quiet about her sexual relationship with Buttrey.
She alleged in the complaint that she was laid off from corrections and placed back in dispatch at a lower level of seniority after denying requests for sexual favors from him.
Mathis claimed she denied the propositions because she and her husband, Deputy Johnny Mathis, were trying to reconcile their relationship. Her husband had been just been reinstated by the Sheriff's Department after being the subject of a domestic violence claim involving Kathy Mathis.
She also alleged in her claim that before the transfer to corrections, she was denied a promotion after being coerced by a sheriff's sergeant into showing one of her breasts at a department function.
Buttrey has maintained his rank in the department throughout the allegations and wasn't put on administrative leave. Though his title has been changed to captain, it didn't constitute a demotion, salary adjustment or change in responsibility.
Some have questioned why Buttrey wasn't put on administrative leave during the investigation, but County Counsel James Fincher said it wasn't an issue for the department because the employee who brought the allegations is no longer under Buttrey's supervision.
"Under the law, you have a duty to protect the employee," Fincher said. "In this case, the complainant was no longer with the county. She wasn't in a position where she was supervised by him."
Kathy Mathis resigned from her position May 6 for personal reasons, according to Robert Morris, director of human resources for Merced County. Johnny Mathis resigned from his position April 20 to accept other employment.
Kathy and Johnny Mathis are now living in Southern California. Johnny Mathis is employed as a security guard at Disneyland.
When reached by phone Tuesday, Kathy Mathis directed questions to her attorney, Barry Bennett, who expects that he and his client will have a better idea of what they plan to do once the county gets the final report.
"This is about the right timeframe in terms of what we were told when the final report would issue," Bennett said Tuesday.
At this point, Mathis hasn't filed a lawsuit against the county, but Bennett said it's still possible, depending on what actions are taken by the county following the final report.
"I think what she does may depend on what's in the report and how the county handles it," Bennett said. "If it's sustained and appropriate action is taken against Buttrey, then that may be sufficient for her. I just don't know."
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.