By GARY POPP
The director of the Clark County Drug Court Treatment Program was fired Tuesday morning. Susan Knoebel said she was terminated by Clark County Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford.
Ford said he was instructed by Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi to inform Knoebel of the termination.
“The judge [Jacobi] made the decision,” Ford said. “The judges are the only ones with the authority to fire an employee of the [Clark County] probation department.”
Knoebel, whose annual salary was $70,675, declined to make any further comments, other than she has retained the services of New Albany attorney Lisa Glickfield.
Jacobi placed Knoebel and Jeremy Snelling, a bailiff in his court, on unpaid suspensions Jan. 7.
Snelling has also previously worked as a field officer with the drug court program, which Jacobi’s court oversees.
Snelling remains on suspension.
The suspensions followed an investigation conducted in October by a private company, Fleeman Investigations Inc., which is owned by Jack Fleeman, a bailiff in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1. The investigation was ordered by Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael.
Carmichael has said she initiated the investigation at the request of Jacobi to look into his court’s personnel.
Fleeman investigated two incidents involving Knoebel and Snelling making contact with drug court program participants in the community. One of the incidents took place at a personal residence and other occurred at a participant’s place of employment and resulted in a transport to the Clark County jail.
Both Knoebel and Snelling have said their actions during both field visits were standard protocol.
Central to the investigation is the process in which officials with the drug court program use when making field visits to contact drug court participants. In his report, Fleeman wrote that “wearing police garb, carrying sidearms, making arrests and adding in late evening unannounced home visits ... are leaving the county open for a lawsuit.”
The Indiana State Police initiated its own investigation into drug court personnel and has submitted some documents to the Office of the Clark County Prosecutor for possible criminal activity. Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart has said he expects to continue receiving documents from the ISP related to its investigation for several weeks.
Stewart is expected to eventually determine if any drug court employees will be charged with criminal activity.
A call to Snelling was not returned by press time.
The firing comes at a time when controversy surrounds the drug court program.
Destiny Hoffman, 34, Jeffersonville and Jason O’Connor, Jeffersonville, were released from the Michael L. Becher Adult Correction Complex in the past week after being held for months longer than their scheduled sentences.
Hoffman was a participant in drug court, and her 154-day incarceration resulted from Jacobi issuing a two-day sanction and never notifying jail staff to release her from the facility.
O’Connor served 215 days in jail after being ordered to serve a 30-day sanction by Jacobi, according to a motion filed with the court Friday by Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Michaelia Gilbert.
In both cases, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office was ordered to hold the defendants “until further order from the court.” The two were released after the Office the Clark County Prosecutor discovered the error.
Jacobi has not commented on matters pertaining to drug court. A court clerk said he would not comment because of an ongoing investigation.