A key group of employees is deeply concerned about embattled Sheriff Dan Staton and is prepared to hold a no-confidence vote concerning his leadership, the Portland Tribune has learned.
Leadership of the Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs Association plans to meet with Staton to discuss its concerns following a membership meeting on Wednesday evening, said the association’s president, Matt Ferguson.
During a straw poll of roughly 50 law enforcement deputies, “the members overwhelmingly were in support of taking action to decide how to address the problem of what they perceive as the failed leadership of the sheriff,” Ferguson said.
Staton on Thursday afternoon said he has received mixed messages about the association’s concerns. He said the union told him its membership is mostly concerned about an ongoing state Department of Justice investigation into whether he improperly collected informaiton about members of a county charter review committee.
He said he expects to be cleared, and is eager for the state to release its results. In the meantime, he says the stream of articles about the charter review probe and other investigations are taking a toll on the agency and its operations.
“I’m being tried by the media,” he said, adding that his deputies are “well aware that I’ve done nothing to disgrace this agency.”
Ferguson won’t provide details of the message the association wants to share with Staton. But the association’s members hope to avoid holding a formal no-confidence vote.
“We’re going to meet with the sheriff and have a discussion with him. I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Ferguson says.
Considering the history of the sheriff’s office, the decision of the DSA to break with Staton’s leadership represents a momentous turn of events for his tenure. It amounts to him being renounced by his own.
With 112 members, the association represents only a fraction of Staton’s employees. But the deputies of the DSA have long stressed ethics, and viewed themselves as the conscience of the agency. Much of the resistance to Sheriff Bernie Giusto, who resigned in 2008 over questions about his conduct, stemmed from the DSA as well as managers on the law enforcement side of the agency.
Staton himself hails from the law enforcement side of the agency.
“It seems that the dominant culture at the agency as far as leadership is the law enforcement branch,” said Eric Zimmerman, chief of staff to County Commissioner Diane McKeel. Zimmerman is now running for the county board of commissioners.
Staton, in an interview last week said the idea of him resigning has been floated in unspecified discussions, but said he had no plans to step down. Asked Thursday whether a no-confidence vote by the DSA would change that, Staton said “I don’t know.”
By Nick Budnick