Staff at a drug rehabilitation facility in Franklin County, Missouri claim police blackmailed patients in their care by forcing them to become informants for drug-related operations. The facility says the people chosen for police operations were there as an alternative to prison, but were threatened with conviction and incarceration if they didn’t cooperate with law enforcement officers.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by the Meramec Recovery Center on August 1, Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Grellner of Franklin County blackmailed Drug Court participants into serving as confidential informers in 2013 by threatening to remove them from the facility. Meramec also claims Grellner told the participants that they would face criminal convictions if they didn’t agree to help him. Grellner allegedly targeted patients who were at risk of failing out of the Drug Court system. Those patients “began failing drug testing, missing counseling sessions, and generally failed to meet the Drug Court objectives of rehabilitation and reduced recidivism.”
In the lawsuit, Meramec also argues that Grellner wanted to appear tough on drug crimes by making more arrests, and that he had future political aspirations in mind.
When Meramec Director Kenneth Allen confronted him, Grellner allegedly retaliated by “spreading false rumors” to Missouri Department of Corrections employees, including a prosecuting attorney and probation officers. Meramac also says Grellner successfully fought to have its contract with the Missouri State Courts Administrator (OSCA) discontinued before its end date.
But Grellner, who recently lost his race to become a sheriff in Franklin County, denies that he cherry-picked and threatened Drug Court participants. He says Meramec tried to sabotage his campaign because it was bitter about the contract termination, and filed the lawsuit right before election day.
Meramec is seeking payment for money lost when its contract with OSCA was terminated. Meanwhile, drug crimes are soaring in the area.
Franklin County was previously known as the methamphetamine capital of the country, although meth use has dropped dramatically in recent years. There were 18 meth lab “incidents” in 2015 — down from 102 in 2012.
“We’ve seen the largest decline since we started battling meth labs in 1997,” Grellner said last October. “Franklin County’s seen as many as one hundred sixty labs in a year, and I think this year we’re somewhere south of ten for the entire year. That is huge.”