Nevada County Supervisor, Grass Valley council candidate Terry Lamphier under criminal investigation
Nevada County Supervisor and Grass Valley City Council candidate Terry Lamphier is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, according to county officials.
Nevada County CEO Rick Haffey confirmed Monday the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has opened a criminal investigation of Lamphier.
According to Nevada County Undersheriff Joe Salivar, detectives from the Major Crimes Unit served a search warrant on Lamphier’s Grass Valley home Friday morning.
“Last week, we received information from a letter delivered to the county alleging inappropriate use of a computer system,” Salivar said.
The ensuing investigation led detectives from the Major Crimes Unit to obtain a search warrant for Lamphier’s residence and vehicle, which was served Friday, Salivar said.
Salivar declined to comment further on the warrant or on any evidence seized, citing the ongoing investigation.
Sheriff Keith Royal said information could not be released because the warrant had been sealed by the court, adding, “We will let it unfold legally.”
Salivar said warrants are typically sealed at the law enforcement agency’s request, in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office had earlier investigated Lamphier “in a limited scope” regarding a similar allegation around May, Salivar said.
“We found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate at that time,” he said.
Lamphier, who lost his bid for re-election to represent District 3 on the Board of Supervisors in June, is one of four candidates seeking one of two open seats on the Grass Valley City Council in next Tuesday’s general election.
In response to a question about the timing of a letter alleging a similar complaint just a few weeks prior to the Nov. 4 election, Salivar said, “We have no idea why the information was delivered at that time. We try to investigate in a timely a manner as possible.”
Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said that after a law enforcement agency develops probable cause for a warrant, a judge reviews it to determine if there is sufficient evidence to grant it. An agency will request a warrant be sealed depending on the type of information being sought and the stage of the investigation, he added.
“At this point, there is no case in my office,” Newell said. “I have received no reports, or requests for prosecution” regarding Lamphier.
Salivar could not comment on when the investigation would be finalized and forwarded to the DA’s office.
“Given the nature of the allegations and the evidence, it could be a while,” he said. “We could have a better grip on it within the next week or two.”
Lamphier, who could not be reached for comment, did not appear for work Monday at the county’s Rood administration center in Nevada City, staff said.
He was not at home Monday when a reporter visited his house north of downtown Grass Valley. However, he drove past the home without stopping as a reporter was interviewing neighbor Denis Eslick.
“There he goes,” Eslick said as Lamphier’s white Subaru station wagon drove past the home and did not return.
Haffey, who declined to comment on any specifics of the investigation, said he had not talked with Lamphier since Friday and that no action had been taken to place the supervisor on leave or any other change in status.
“He is an elected official,” Haffey said. “The county counsel has advised us that the search warrant has no effect on Supervisor Lamphier’s status as an elected official.
“His status would only be affected if there were a felony conviction of an offense involving violation of his official duties,” Haffey added. “That is according to (state) government code 1770(h).”
Haffey said he had no word on a timeline for the investigation. He said the search warrant was sealed, and he could not comment on any allegations of any type.
“Whenever there are allegations, regardless of whether it’s an elected official or not, we promptly investigate them through the appropriate authorities,” Haffey said.
Haffey, who has been with Nevada County for 15 years — including 12 as CEO — said this is the first time in his tenure that a sitting county supervisor had come under criminal investigation. The only other similar incident was in the mid-2000s when a clerk-recorder was suspected of “moonlighting” at another job in another jurisdiction, he said.
“One of the things I learned from that is that I’m not in a position to discipline any elected official,” Haffey said.
Supervisor Chairman Nate Beason said he was aware of the search warrant, but that he had no word on the reason.
“It’s a sealed warrant,” Beason said. Asked if any action had been taken within the supervisors’ chambers in regard to Lamphier, he said, “Not to my knowledge.”
Eslick, meanwhile, said he was at home Friday and saw “four or five” patrol cars parked at Lamphier’s home.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “I know he’s on (Nevada County Board of Supervisors), so I thought it was a meeting.”
Eslick also noted that a Grass Valley Public Works Department crew had been at Lamphier’s home earlier Friday morning, before the police arrived.
“They told me there was a stuffed-up toilet,” Eslick said.
Eslick, who has lived in Grass Valley for several years, said Lamphier has always been cordial and that the supervisor was active in helping to clear the neighborhood of drug activity.
He said he saw Lamphier at home Sunday night, but didn’t know when the supervisor had left the premises.
He said other than the incident Friday, Lamphier did not have frequent traffic or visitors at his home.
“It’s usually just him and his girlfriend,” Eslick said.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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