By MATT KOESTERS
Clark County Community Corrections Director Steve Mason is suspended with pay, pending an investigation of claims by Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford that Mason exhibited a pattern of poor decision-making and insubordinate behavior.
Ford had initially told Mason that he was fired in a face-to-face conversation on Friday, on the say-so of Unified Circuit Court Presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael.
“I asked if that needed to go before the [Clark County Community Corrections] Advisory Board,” Ford said. “We had a discussion about that, and we did not think that had to be - obviously, we were wrong about that.”
The advisory board unanimously voted to allow Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Daniel Moore to convene a committee to investigate Ford’s claims.
“We should get to the bottom of this in about two to three weeks,” Moore said, who added that Mason’s firing would need to be approved by the county executive, by statute.
The most recent clash between Ford and Mason was in regard to a dispute over the hours of a probation officer who claimed a full eight hours on his time sheet for travel to and from Indianapolis for job-related testing. Ford said Mason sent him an email about the issue that felt was insubordinate and forwarded it to Carmichael.
“When Judge Carmichael saw the email, she notified me by instant message that we needed to talk,” Ford said at a meeting of the advisory board Wednesday. “When I met with Judge Carmichael, she said that someone needed to go. I agreed with her.”
Ford said that he had counseled Mason multiple times, usually verbally, to discuss Mason’s work performance.
“I’ve offered up advice to Steve on how he could improve his relationship with the judges, the prosecutors and employees,” Ford said. “Sometimes he’s taken that advice. Sometimes he hasn’t.”
Mason denied that those conversations had taken place in an impromptu press conference after the advisory-board meeting.
“We never had any counseling sessions,” Mason said. “If there was, I want to see the documents. We’ll see the emails he sent, I’ve sent and stuff like that.”
Mason didn’t come alone to the meeting of the advisory board. About 10 employees of Clark County Community Corrections stood with Mason outside of an executive session of the advisory board to discuss Mason’s employment status, and also attended the meeting with him.
When asked about the support he was receiving from his employees, Mason became overcome with emotion and had to take a moment to regain his composure before answering.
“It just means a lot,” Mason said. “I’ve poured my heart and soul into this program, done everything I could to keep it going through financial difficulties and other things. It just means a lot to me that they were there.”
Work Release Director Danielle Grissett will serve as interim community corrections director during Mason’s suspension.
Mason is confident that Moore’s committee will find that he didn’t do anything wrong, he said.
“I think the truth will come out,” Mason said.