KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jackson County’s top law enforcement official has submitted his letter of resignation.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp submitted his resignation Wednesday. It is effective at the end of business Thursday.
Sharp has been in the position since 2009.
In a statement released late Wednesday morning, Sharp said he had a personal failing.
"I allowed my judgment as Sheriff and my obligations to Jackson County be clouded because of my feelings for someone I cared very deeply for in the past," Sharp said in the statement. "I am accountable for my actions."
The announcement came after details of Sharp's relationship with an employee became public in documents connected to a lawsuit involving that now former employee.
In 2015, an administrative assistant in the sheriff's office, Christine Lynde, filed a lawsuit against Jackson County alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. Lynde claimed coworkers harassed her over a report she sexually harassed a woman. Police never filed charges against Lynde in that alleged incident.
An April 4 deposition from Sharp also brought more details to light. According to the transcript, Sharp admitted to having a relationship with Lynde from 2013 to 2018. During that time, he said they went on trips to Branson, Phoenix and even Washington, D.C. Another court document alleges those trips were either paid for by Sharp or with tax dollars.
In his deposition, Sharp also acknowledged having a three-way sexual encounter with his wife and Lynde. He said the relationship between the three continued for months, but it was not always sexual in nature.
That case continues to be reviewed, and last week, attorneys representing the county filed a motion, asking for copies of text messages and other communications between Lynde and any current or former employee of the Sheriff’s dept., including Sharp.
That motion revealed that Lynde and Sharp “co-mingled their finances when they purchased a home together in May of 2017.”
Those documents also revealed that Sharp and Lynde were in ongoing romantic, sexual and financial relationship throughout her employment with the Sheriff’s Department.
Depositions associated with Lynde's lawsuit showed Sharp went on trips with her, using tax dollars to pay for portions of a trip at least once. Over the course of their five-year relationship, Sharp made Lynne the highest-paid civilian employee at the department and gave her perks unavailable to others, such as a car allowance and the ability to work from home.
County Executive Frank White said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that Sharp's resignation was the "appropriate action" given the "serious allegations made public today."
“I hate to see anybody lose their job under duress,” White said. “I hate to see anybody lose their job. I mean if you’ve ever been fired, you don’t want to see anybody lose their job,” he said.
White said he planned to name an interim appointment "in the coming days."
While White said it’s always somewhat of a surprise when someone resigns, he was not surprised by the lawsuit.
“What we’ve talked about has been in closed session, so I can’t really divulge what we talk about in closed session,” he said.
41 Action News reached an operator at the sheriff’s department, who indicated Lynde is no longer employed at the department. A spokesperson could not tell us when she left.
Former sheriff's office employee and Sharp 2016 challenger Brice Stewart said he was not surprised by the information that came to light Wednesday. Stewart claimed the relationship was an open secret he felt powerless to stop.
"He's the boss. He's the highest-ranking law enforcement official. Who are you going to go tell?" he asked.
Stewart said the potential misuse of tax dollars is what concerns him the most.
"It's their money. They pay their salary, and if they're doing this on the taxpayer dime, it's not right," he said.
Before running for sheriff, Stewart worked in IT for the county at the sheriff's office. When he was moved to another location, he sued, claiming retaliation. Stewart said that suit was later dismissed.