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Dodge County Humane Society director tampered with evidence, officer says in testimony

Fremont officer says he recommended charge for obstructing government operations
Posted at 6:44 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 19:50:12-04

FREMONT, Neb. (KMTV) — A Fremont police officer who investigated an allegation involving the Dodge County Humane Society last summer testified in a civil case Monday that the shelter's director tampered with evidence in that investigation.

In Dodge County Court, the Debby Durham Family Foundation is seeking $25,000 in grant money back, saying the terms of two grant agreements were violated.

At issue Monday was a $15,000 grant from the foundation to the shelter for an indoor and outdoor security camera system, which the system's installer testified is designed to retain video for a year.

The Dodge County Humane Society has been controversial in Fremont for at least a year. Protests were held outside the facility about a year ago.

Learn more: Allegations of animal abuse, harassment fly in Fremont over humane society controversy

Fremont Police Lt. Edward Watts testified that he was investigating an allegation involving a dog kept at the facility without its owner's knowledge and that employees were told not to tell anyone the dog, Cinnamon, was there.

In May, he said the department issued a preservation letter to prevent changes to the surveillance system before its hard drive was obtained with a search warrant.

But instead of being able to find any video of the allegation he was investigating, Watts said a system log and video showed Dodge County Humane Society Director Tamar Reed altered the system's settings.

Watts was asked if he believed the hard drive contained enough evidence to file charges against Reed.

"In my mind, there was, otherwise I don't think I would have asked for charges to be filed," he said.

The system's installer, Matthew Schott, said the 24-terabyte system is "pretty much unheard of," most are built with two to four terabytes, he said. But the larger system would "specifically give them one year of recording time," he said.

But Schott said the system was changed to only hold two weeks of video.

"You could clearly see it was the director of the humane society that went into the room at the time that the settings were changed," said Schott, who assisted Watts in reviewing the system's data.

The Dodge County Attorney's Office has not yet responded to a request for more information on why a charge was not made last summer.

Judge Francis Barron III overruled an objection by Dodge County Humane Society Attorney Thomas Thomsen to use the hard drive's contents as evidence.

"The whole purpose of the Debby Durham Family Foundation granting the Dodge County Humane Society was for transparency," said an attorney for the foundation, John Farrell. "They had a lot of issues with the problem of transparency so they had this 365-day ability to record."

Farrell said overruling the objection was "almost like winning the case" and that hope remains that the full year's worth of footage could be recovered.

Thomsen argued that the plaintiff was simply using the case as a "fishing expedition" and that the hard drive's contents were not relevant. He has not responded to a request for further comment.

The foundation's lawsuit also seeks $10,000 from another grant back. According to the complaint, the grant was to be used to hire a professional consultant to review the shelter's operations. The foundation says the agreement was not met.

The Dodge County Humane Society is suing Fremont and another animal shelter in town, Furever Home, after Furever Home received a contract for animal control services with the city and the city terminated its own agreement with the shelter.

A hearing regarding the lawsuit with Furever Home was set for Monday, but the case was continued until May 20.

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