Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp is resigning his post in Kansas City amid explosive allegations involving the misuse of taxpayer dollars and a ménage à trois between the sheriff, a female employee, and his now ex-wife.
— Micheal Mahoney (@KCMikeMahoney) April 18, 2018
The Kansas City Star reported that Sharp, a Democrat, acknowledged in court documents that he gave an administrative assistant in the sheriff’s office $8,000 as a down payment to buy a house after she sued the county for sexual harassment. Sharp has admitted to having had a sexual relationship with the employee, Christine Lynde, for five years, a relationship that some say was an “open secret” in the sheriff’s office.
Sharp and Lynde have owned the house since last year, court records show. The pair have also allegedly taken some “personal and professional trips” together in part on the taxpayers’ dime, according to court documents.
Sharp testified in his deposition that he and Lynde went on a cruise together to Mexico and also “went on trips to Phoenix, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Branson and the Lake of the Ozarks during the time she was suing Jackson County.”
Court records also say Sharp approved multiple promotions and pay raises for Lynde, to the point where she became the highest-paid civilian employee in the department. He also gave her perks that other county employees did not get, such as a bi-weekly $240 car allowance and permission to work from home, the documents say.
Sharp also acknowledged in a partial deposition attached to an April 11 court document that he, Lynde, and his now ex-wife had sex together.
— Micheal Mahoney (@KCMikeMahoney) April 18, 2018
In her 2016 sexual harassment lawsuit, Lynde alleged that she was sexually harassed by two female co-workers, as well as Sharp’s second in command, Col. Hugh Mills, at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
In a bizarre twist, Lynde claimed that the hostile work environment stemmed from a 2013 incident in which she was accused of sexually assaulting a then-sheriff’s department employee in a motel room after a night of drinking.
The employee told Lee’s Summit police that Lynde removed the woman’s shirt and encouraging a male friend to take photographs of her on a bed in the motel.
The woman told police she was unsure what happened next, according to their report, but awoke to find her pants had been removed. She then quickly left the motel.
When she told Sharp about the incident, he showed “resentment” toward her, the report said. The employee told police that she believed “this was a result of Lynde and Sheriff Sharp being friends.”
The woman resigned in October 2014 after receiving a $95,000 settlement from the county in exchange for dropping her harassment claim against the sheriff’s department. Another female sheriff’s department employee received a $58,500 payoff in 2015 for dropping a related claim, according to the Star.
In her lawsuit, Lynde said she told Mills that she had been “falsely accused” but that Mills “retaliated” against her. “Among other things,” the suit said, “Colonel Mills has called her a ‘strong-willed lesbian,’ threatened to write her name and phone number on every men’s bathroom stall, and challenged Lynde’s job duties.”
Other allegations in the suit include a claim that an unnamed male co-worker made “inappropriate comments” and “touched her inappropriately” and that “someone slashed her tires when her vehicle was parked in the sheriff’s department lot in 2014.”
Boy, that Jackson County Sheriff’s Department sure seems like a lovely place to work.
— 41 Action News (@41actionnews) April 18, 2018
Sharp was first elected Jackson County sheriff in 2008, and was reelected in 2012 and 2016 with only “token opposition.” The Kansas City Star noted that Sharp’s challenger in 2016, Brice Stewart, tried to “raise some of those issues at the time, but they didn’t resonate with voters.”
In addition to the allegations in Lynde’s sexual harassment lawsuit, Stewart called attention to complaints filed against Sharp in 2015 by his ex-wife.
She complained that after their 2014 divorce Sharp spied on and harassed her after learning of her romantic relationship with a mutual friend.
In emails and text messages attached to the report, his ex-wife wrote that she felt threatened, the Raytown Police report said.
“Do not contact me again,” she wrote in one email to Mike Sharp. “You are intimidating and scaring me.”
Stewart, who worked in the IT department at the sheriff’s office while Lynde was there, told 41 Action News that the affair was an “open secret.”
But as Tony Botello of the popular Kansas City-based blog Tony’s Kansas City, rightly noted, “Sheriff Sharp benefited from the ‘friendly’ administration of disgraced former Exec Mike Sanders.”
County legislator Crystal Williams released a statement saying Sharp did “the right thing” in resigning. “We are beyond fatigued as we listen to unending tales of misogny and inappropriate behavior on every level of government,” she said. “Enough.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker put out a statement Wednesday explaining how the investigation into the sheriff’s improprieties began:
My office was notified in late 2017 by the county counselor of concerns regarding a pending civil action involving the Sheriff. We contacted a law enforcement agency and began our own investigation into the matter. We also closely monitored the on-going civil litigation involving Jackson County.
While the allegations that have come to light are extremely troubling, today’s resignation satisfies the state’s interest regarding a potential “quo warranto” action to remove the Sheriff.
Sharp apologized for his behavior in his own statement on Wednesday: “I allowed my judgment as sheriff and my obligations to Jackson County be clouded because of my feelings for someone I cared very deeply for in the past. I am accountable for my actions. This was a personal failing and is entirely my responsibility.”