Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck’s office conducted the investigation into one of his own employees stealing nearly $90,000 from the county, according to investigative records obtained by the I-Team.
That employee, David Bruns, is currently serving four months in Montgomery County jail after pleading guilty to theft and tampering with records. In addition to working in the delinquent tax unit, Bruns is the husband of Assistant County Prosecutor Julie Bruns, who is Heck’s second cousin.
The case was taken to court by Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who Heck requested to serve as a special prosecutor in the case “due to a potential appearance of a conflict of interest,” according to O’Brien’s appointment filed Aug. 30 in Montgomery County Common Pleas court.
But the prosecution was based on an investigation by Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office investigators Kerry Smoot and Tom Shaw, which began Aug. 17 when Smoot met with Heck and civil division chief Mary Montgomery. Bruns had confessed on Aug. 15 to Montgomery, his boss, that he had diverted money to a company he owned in 2015, according to investigative records.
“Upon advising Mr. Heck of the apparent theft, Mr. Heck asked the investigators to conduct a full investigation,” said Heck’s office in an email response to questions.
Heck’s office referred questions about why they conducted their own investigation to O’Brien.
O’Brien responded that he was not concerned about any conflict of interest with Heck’s office investigating its own employee.
“The investigators are experienced investigators who have white collar crime experience who did a professional job,” O’Brien said “There was no concern about bias as the criminality was apparent, the suspect admitted it early on, and the investigators were as offended by the conduct as Montgomery county taxpayers would be by Bruns’ violation of trust.”
O’Brien said he played a role in directing the investigators once appointed. He said it’s not uncommon for a law enforcement agency to investigate its own employees, though there has been a recent trend in light of increased attention on officer-involved shootings to refer cases to the Ohio Attorney General.
“Once appointed we determined that was not necessary,” O’Brien said.
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