Deputy files suit against county, sheriff and investigator

Gwen Chamberlain

Ken Kamholtz, a deputy with the Yates County Sheriff’s Department, has filed a federal lawsuit against Yates County, the Yates County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Ron Spike and Sr. Investigator Michael Christensen because he says his due process and equal protection rights were violated in the course of his employment.

In an email responding to a request for more information, Kamholtz wrote, “The matter will be heard by the Federal District Court Judge/Jury in Rochester. The facts will be a matter of public record and made available to the public at that time. I regret that I am unable to provide The Chronicle-Express and its readers answers to the many concerns that are rightly on their minds and the minds of all citizens of Yates County. This continues to be a tenuous and weighty matter for me.”

Kamholtz says he is seeking accountability for the events he’s presented in the lawsuit.

Spike said the case has been referred to the county’s professional liability insurance carrier.

“This litigation appears to be an action filed in federal civil court as an employee retaliation claim and this office emphatically denies the allegations made here,” he said in a statement released on May 22, adding, “Because this is in litigation, this will be the only statement from this office at this time.”

In court papers filed in the Western New York District U.S. Court, Kamholtz alleges individuals named in the lawsuit acted with intentional disregard of his constitutional rights. He says their actions constitute a pattern of malicious or bad faith intent to injure him.

As of last week, the only documents filed in the court spell out Kamholtz’s allegations. A response from the county had not been filed.

In the document, Kamholtz says in 2003, Christensen ordered him to exclude evidence that might benefit a former Penn Yan Police sergeant who was involved in a sexual abuse case.

Following that incident, Kamholtz says he began getting complaints about his work.

The 20-page document also alleges Christensen struck him in the back when he mentioned two cases during a meeting with the Yates County District Attorney. He later took leave from work, filing a Workers Compensation claim because of the stiff neck and pain in his back.

Evaluation by a police psychiatrist following desk duty resulted in Kamholtz being described as “fit for duty” in late 2006.

In January 2007, Kamholtz was charged with two counts of offering a false instrument. The case was dismissed and Kamholtz was returned to road patrol.

Earlier this year, Kamholtz and Christensen, as an incumbent, were among a group of candidates running for a seat on the Penn Yan Village Board. Kamholtz’s court complaint says he was issued an appearance order for administrative action regarding his activities on the Internet related to the political campaign.

The document says Kamholtz was subjected to the adverse actions “in retaliation for engaging in protected speech, which had the effect of dissuading a reasonable person from making any further complaints as a public employee in the workplace.”

Kamholtz has been employed by the sheriff’s department for 15 years. He was appointed to the criminal investigation division in 2001, but spent some time in active duty with the Air Force National Guard and returned to the sheriff’s department in 2003.

The court document does not list specific damages being sought by Kamholtz.