Shane Utley
Shane Utley (Courtesy of Shane Utley)

FARMINGTON — Two San Juan County Sheriff's Office employees are taking a financial hit to leave a workplace where one says he suffered retaliation for not supporting the sheriff politically.

"Six months ago I was not considering retiring at all," Shane Utley, who served as a captain, said on Friday. "Today I'm retired."

He and his wife, Beth Utley, who is a public information officer, filed to leave the sheriff's office on Friday. Shane Utley's retirement was effective that day. He had worked for the sheriff's office for 22 years.

Beth Utley's last day is Aug. 8. She worked for the office for three years, and won't collect retirement. Instead, she will take a job in the Bloomfield School District teaching sixth grade that pays about half what she made at the sheriff's office.

Beth Utley
Beth Utley (Courtesy of BETH Utley)

"I am looking forward to working somewhere where someone appreciates me," she said, declining to say whether she was retaliated against.

The Utleys are among four plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against Sheriff Ken Christesen and others in the office for unjust demotion, work-place harassment and demands to support Christesen's re-election campaign.

A legal filing from attorneys representing Christesen and the others denies all charges of relation.

Shane Utley said retaliation by sheriff's office leaders is why five deputies recently applied for jobs at the Farmington Police Department.

"That's his opinion," Christesen said about Shane Utley's interpretation as to why the deputies are trying to leave.

Four of those five deputies told The Daily Times in interviews for a July 28 story that retaliation is among the reasons they wanted to leave.

Deputies are eligible for early retirement with limited pay after 20 years working in the sheriff's office. After 25 years, they retire on a full plan, and receive 90 percent of their annual salary each year.

Shane Utley said he earned about $85,000 a year. But, because he left before reaching 25 years of employment, he said he will make 73 percent of his salary each year during his retirement.

Beth Utley said she and her husband want to spend as much time as they can with their family now.

Shane Utley said the sheriff's office is not the same office he learned to love.

"I certainly look forward to the day I can testify before a judge and a jury on this," he said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.