Traverse City News and Events

Investigation Details Misconduct In Ritter Resignation

By Beth Milligan | May 18, 2019

Grand Traverse County Jail Administrator Todd Ritter was facing multiple allegations of misconduct and department policy violations at the time of his April resignation, according to internal investigation documents obtained by The Ticker, and could still face criminal charges related to the case.

Sheriff Tom Bensley sent a letter to Ritter earlier this month detailing the allegations, which state that Ritter had inappropriate relations with multiple former female inmates and kept sexually explicit material on his county-owned cell phone. In one case, Ritter is accused of seeking out a former female inmate on Tinder, beginning an intimate relationship with her, smoking marijuana with her and inviting her to bars while she was still on felony probation, supplying her with county drug test kits, bringing her coffees and lunches at her home while in uniform and on duty, and taking her on a taxpayer-funded trip to Lansing for an overnight hotel. When another inmate from the jail who was aware of the relationship was hospitalized and confided in a deputy guarding her about Ritter's conduct, Ritter showed up at the hospital and ordered the deputy to take a break, after which time the inmate ceased saying anything further. 

Ritter is also accused of having a sexual relationship with another former female inmate for seven years, during which time he allegedly met her in the basement of the Governmental Center and took her into a closet while on duty and in uniform, kissing her and engaging in "intimate touching." He also smoked marijuana with her. Ritter is accused of showing favoritism to female inmates over the objections of other staff, including using funds to buy them special lunches, approving them for preferred positions despite being unqualified for those roles, and in one case allowing an inmate to serve her sentence at Grand Traverse County Jail instead of Kalkaska County Jail, despite Grand Traverse County Jail's overcrowding issues. Ritter also allegedly kept a "voluminous" amount of pornography and sexually explicit material on his county-owned cell phone, including compromising images of himself and conversations with women where he detailed his sexual fantasies.

According to Bensley's letter, Undersheriff Michael Shea - who was promoted to that position in October - began having meetings in the fall with corrections officers to learn more about rumors and accusations of misconduct circulating against Ritter. As a result of Shea's months-long investigation, Ritter was placed on administrative leave on April 4 and advised he would be provided an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him. On April 11, Ritter submitted a letter of resignation to Bensley, which was rejected in order to allow the investigation to be completed to determine whether there were grounds for termination. Subsequently, the Sheriff's Office and Ritter reached a settlement agreement that allowed Ritter to resign effective April 26.

According to Bensley's letter, which laid out the details of the investigation following Ritter's resignation, the sheriff concluded that "based on the number, severity, and egregious nature" of allegations against Ritter, there would have been just cause for Ritter's termination had the two parties not reached a settlement agreement. While Ritter was allowed to resign, he could still face criminal charges; the Prosecuting Attorney's Office has referred the case to the Michigan State Police department, which will begin an investigation next week.

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