Highway Patrol official steps down

COLUMBUS The assistant superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol who was suspended earlier this month for allegedly interfering in internal and criminal investigations of former OSHP Post 7 Commander, Lt. Roger Norris, resigned Monday.

Lt. Col. Peyton Watts, now the former assistant superintendent of the OSHP, had been on paid administrative leave from the patrol after it was reported he hid his personal friendship with Norris and continued to have contact with his during the investigation. Watts, who was involved in the investigation of Norris, allegedly lied to investigators about the number of times he spoke with Norris on the telephone and their friendship.

Norris retired in August 2010 while being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct involving a 16-year-old girl. He was allegedly seen in a state vehicle with the girl on Barton Road near St. Clairsville on June 8. He has not been charged with any crime, but the matter is still being reviewed by criminal investigators at the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office. The OSHP has been conducting an administrative investigation in the allegations while the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office reportedly is in charge of a criminal investigation.

According to the Inspector General’s report, Watts had told investigators that he had spoken to Norris on three or four occasions, but had actually made 94 calls or attempted calls, including 29 calls that lasted from two to 41 minutes between Watts and Norris. The calls had taken place while the administrative investigation was being conduct. Watts and Norris are described in the report as being personal friends.

Watts is also accused of attempting to influence the investigation by “expressing his desire that the case be completed and closed quickly.”

Norris and Watts worked together in the 1987 at the Zanesville OSHP Post.

Norris formerly commanded the OSHP Post in St. Clairsville. He was promoted to staff lieutenant earlier this year and assigned to patrol headquarters in Columbus prior to the allegations of misconduct.

Schuler can be reached at shoe@timesleaderonline.com.