A special prosecutor investigating allegations that involve former Cattaraugus County Sheriff Dennis B. John and his department hopes to wrap up the probe by week's end.
Wyoming County District Attorney Gerald L. Stout was named last week as a special investigator to sort out the many allegations circling the department. Some relate to John, who committed suicide Aug. 18 on the Allegany Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians, of which he was a member.
"Sexual harassment charges are possible, and allegations involve John to a certain extent, as well as personnel in the Sheriff's [Office]," Stout said. "Some personnel in the department and others in county government who are complainants, witnesses or criminal defendants will be questioned."
An investigator from the State Police is being requested by Stout to conduct interviews, and the probe has not yet begun, Stout said.
"I'm certain there's been no criminal activity," Stout said. "But I want this over and done with as soon as possible. "
Acting Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb echoed those sentiments Saturday.
"A lot of people are asking crazy things," Whitcomb said. "It's disrespectful to [John] and his family.
"Whatever his intentions were to do what he did," he continued, "attention by the media just prolongs the pain. This is upsetting to me and preventing me from picking up the pieces and moving on." As the allegations relating to John began to build in recent weeks, Whitcomb said he took his frustrations to County Attorney Dennis V. Tobolski.
That move led District Attorney Edward M. Sharkey to ask for a special prosecutor to look into matters. Sharkey recused himself to avoid any conflict, and Judge Larry M. Himelein named Stout, formerly of Franklinville, to take over.
Whitcomb, who was sworn in as acting sheriff until Dec. 31, said county Democrats have asked Gov. David Paterson to appoint him sheriff.
Whitcomb is unopposed on the November ballot.
Whitcomb said last week he took action to help with his duties and promoted William Nichols of Steamburg to captain. He will assume some undersheriff duties now. In January, Whitcomb will officially appoint Nichols as his undersheriff.
Nichols has extensive police background and most recently worked with a cold case team and has worked multiple undercover cases.