Editors Note: Sunday, May 25, will be the last day that letters related to the June 3 primary elections will run. The submission deadline is Thursday, May 22.
The April 25th headlines concerning the lawsuit filed against Sheriff Ken Christesen caught my attention as I hope it did most readers. I have worked with the four people who filed the lawsuit and they are good people. I was impressed to see that they had the courage to stand up and defend themselves. Ken should be relieved that the lawsuit was filed so close to the June primary which is when the next Sheriff will be determined. By the time the citizens of San Juan County have paid attorney fees and perhaps six figures in either a settlement or a judgment because of his actions, the election will be over and voters will have cast their ballots. If you want to know what kind of "leadership", "integrity" and character he really has, ask the scores of good employees who chose not to work for him and have left the Sheriff's Office since he was elected – many at great financial expense. Also talk to his peers at the local, state and Federal levels.
The article failed to mention why Matt Wilcox joined the suit. I promoted Matt to the rank of Lieutenant slightly more than four years ago after an open, competitive promotional process in which he was determined to be the best candidate. Matt did not support Ken in the 2010 primary. One of the first things Ken did when he took office was to demote Matt to Sergeant. Matt was an excellent Lieutenant, running circles around what Ken accomplished in the identical position before he retired. There was no reason for the demotion other than Ken's vindictiveness. Besides Matt, many other employees have been unfairly treated. Not only have reputations been impacted, salaries and retirements were also negatively affected. After seeing the retaliation that took place four years ago, you can hardly blame others for remaining silent. Is this really the type of person we want or need as Sheriff? Ask yourself that question before you put a sign up, give a donation or cast your vote.
I am sorry the County Commission has been dragged into this suit because from what I know, they played no role in the injustices that have occurred. They don't control what the Sheriff can or cannot do operationally, but they do hold the County's purse strings and determine the Sheriff's budget.
As a former two term sheriff and 28 year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, I am compelled to comment on the recent article regarding the four employees filing suit against Sheriff Christesen and two of his staff members.
Sheriff Christesen made the comment questioning the timing of the suit saying it was politically motivated. The timing was dictated by his actions when he seemingly applied pressure to his employees to support him instead of allowing them the right of free choice and/or was not fair in his handling of internal issues.
This timing is no different than sheriff Christensen's politically timed anti-drug add showing at local theaters.
The objective thing to do is let the employees decide their level of involvement based on the degree of respect the Sheriff has earned during his term and not require loyalty to him but to the organization. The better thing to do is for the employees to take a low profile approach as there will be losers regardless who wins the election, if you take a high profile approach.
No sheriff will have 100 percent loyalty, as I am a product of that belief. In my recollection, there has never been a lawsuit filed against the Sheriff during the election process by any employees, so why this election? I am familiar with all of the plaintiffs and they are long term employees who have experienced numerous elections without filing suit. I know them as fair and reasonable people who are amenable to proper personnel practices and just want fair and respectful treatment.
Sheriff Christesen was an employee during my two terms and I consider him a friend; however, I am disappointed in his aggressive self serving politics and his political style of management. Ken is a master politician more than a sheriff. These types of politics are the epitome of what is wrong with our country. While I applaud his second amendment stand, I question his respecting his employees rights to free choice and speech.
I also know candidate Michael Kovacs who I believe is a very humble man, fine police chief and the real thing.
I began this letter prior to the article in The Daily Times on April 25. Having worked for three different sheriffs and two Chiefs of Police, I am quite familiar with the inter-workings of a law enforcement department. A "quota" system is the worst thing that can be initiated/used by any law enforcement department. It creates bad "cops" who feel a need to make poor judgment calls in order to obtain the desirable stats. Approximately two years ago, I asked Sheriff Christesen why he implemented a quota system? He responded, "It isn't a quota system, it's a point system." He went on to explain that his "point" system was to ascertain (1) that the deputies were doing their jobs, and (2) give points to those who were doing a good job." I told Sheriff Christesen there were computer programs in place in the sheriff's office to run stats on every sheriff's office
employee. Thus, he could find out what was each and every person's work load. My next question was, "How are these points used, i.e., more vacation or sick leave time?" "oh no," was his response. "We can't change county policy on that. The points are used in the annual evaluation process. The possibility of a higher pay increase if you accumulate enough points." It should be noted that a good sergeant knows exactly how a deputy on his shift or squad is performing his/her duties. It's also part of a sergeant's duties to evaluate the deputies in his squad. There isn't any good reason for a point or quota system in law enforcement.
Reminds me of when, growing up on a farm, I used to play with the little piglets, dress them up, etc., and called them my baby doll. However, they were still piglets. You can call a system anything you want to, but Sheriff Christesen's "point" system is exactly the same as a "quota" system.
Upon reading the complaint, I noted that at least one plaintiff went through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which is not a rubber stamp commission. This is not a frivolous lawsuit, it does have merit. Even if only half of the allegations are true, Sheriff Christesen has disgraced the office he holds and should not be re-elected. Unfortunately, this case will not go to trial prior to the June 3rd
primary. However, it is my opinion that these plaintiffs did not spend their money hiring an attorney just to lie about the sheriff. Where there's smoke there's usually fire. Sheriff Christesen asked me what he'd ever done to me to make me be so against his re-election. My answer is: You've done nothing to me personally, but you have totally abused and disgraced the office you were elected to.