San Juan County Sheriff's Office lieutenant says demotion was retaliation, according to grievance

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan County Sheriff's Office Lt. Neil Haws has filed a grievance with the sheriff's office challenging his recent demotion from director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force.

Sheriff Ken Christesen has denied the grievance, which concerns Haws' pay cut. Haws has now filed for a grievance hearing. No date has been set yet, he said last week.

"I believe I have been removed solely as retaliation for my political beliefs and my association with the employees who have a lawsuit against the Sheriff at this time," Haws wrote in the grievance.

Haws is married to Lisa Haws, a deputy lieutenant and one of four sheriff's office employees who has filed a lawsuit against Christesen for unjust demotions, work-place harassment and demands to support his re-election campaign, among other complaints. During the June 3 primary election, Haws supported Christesen's opponent, Mike Kovacs.

Haws filed his grievance July 11, and The Daily Times recently received it in an open records request.

Christesen declined to comment for this article, saying it involves personnel matters.

Earlier this month, Christesen removed Haws from his position as Region II's director, a job he had for nearly six years.

The demotion led to a drop in pay. Haws was earning $40.16 an hour under a captain's step-two pay scale, but, after the demotion, he was dropped to $38.59 an hour, which is the rate under a lieutenant's step-five pay scale, according to sheriff's office documents.

Haws also requested in his grievance that if the sheriff's office does not return him to his previous pay that the department buy out his four years of military service and an additional year. If that happens, Haws says in the grievance that he will retire.

Christesen also denied that request.

Haws wrote in his grievance that on March 24, more than two months before the primary election, "I spoke with Charlene Scott at human resources and advised her of my fears of this exact retaliation. A few days later I e-mailed her and asked if I need to put anything into writing; she said I did not have to and that she had advised the Sheriff to not retaliate against me."

Repeated efforts on Thursday to reach Scott, the county's chief human resources officer, were unsuccessful. Her office is closed on Friday.

Once demoted, Haws reported for reassignment at the sheriff's office. When he asked what his new duties would be, he was told they were unknown and he was tasked with writing a manual for the new Region II director, he wrote in his grievance.

Haws has since finished the manual and said he is now writing policy revisions and conducting background investigations of sheriff's office candidates.

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