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2 at OHP exit jobs for lying about tryst

LIMA, Ohio - An Ohio Highway Patrol supervisor has retired and a dispatcher has been fired for lying to investigators about their affair, an agency spokesman said yesterday.

Staff Lt. James Ramey, 42, retired late Friday, forgoing a predisciplinary hearing scheduled for yesterday, Lt. Gary Lewis said. He was with the patrol for 21 years, the last three in Lima.

Patricia Mertz, 26, was fired Friday after a pre-disciplinary hearing on grounds that she made false statements.

Highway Patrol investigators in the fall began looking into allegations that the two were having an affair. During the investigation, Mr. Ramey and Mrs. Mertz told investigators that the allegations were unfounded.

But the investigation was reopened when Mrs. Mertz's husband turned over to the patrol sexually explicit and graphic e-mails Mr. Ramey allegedly sent Mrs. Mertz on her home computer. The Blade obtained copies of the e-mail messages.

In one e-mail, Mr. Ramey told Mrs. Mertz: “Baby, if I were designing the perfect woman, I would just use you as the mold!”

In another, he said: “I have a pair of boxer shorts on and a long underwear top on. That's it, and you? What are you wearing?”

Mr. Ramey, who was promoted recently to staff lieutenant at the patrol post in Wilmington, could not be reached for comment last night. Mrs. Mertz, an eight-month employee of the patrol, also could not be reached.

Lieutenant Lewis said authorities proceeded with disciplinary action not because of the affair, but because the employees lied to their superiors.

On Oct. 12, 2000, the OHP's investigation unit received an anonymous letter that accused the two of having a sexual relationship.

The only misconduct that investigation uncovered was that Mr. Ramey and Mrs. Mertz had told profane jokes in the workplace, and Mr. Ramey swore at a subordinate, Lieutenant Lewis said.

But in late February, Mrs. Mertz's former husband, Thad, provided authorities with 26 e-mails he said were sent from the lieutenant to his wife between May 16 and June 14 of last year. The e-mails made a reference to them having sex, according to the OHP's investigative report.

When interviewed on Feb. 23, Mr. Ramey and Mrs. Mertz admitted that they had been dishonest during their October interviews and had been involved in an affair in May, 2000.

The OHP reports show that Mr. Ramey initially lied about the affair on Feb. 23 until he was told Mrs. Mertz had been interviewed and admitted to the relationship. He told his superiors he had sex with Mrs. Mertz twice, but not at work.

Mr. Ramey further said he had made a terrible mistake by having the affair. He said he was embarrassed and disappointed in himself because he lied about it.

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