Former deputy admits to drinking before crash but not being intoxicated

A former Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputy who is challenging Sheriff Jeff Dickerson in the upcoming election says an investigation by the sheriff’s department into his April car crash is a game of “smoke and mirrors.”

Many of the details surrounding the investigation into Scappoose resident Dave Fuller and the events leading up to it still remain COURTESY PHOTO - Dave Fuller

Fuller told The Spotlight the investigation centered around accusations he was intoxicated when he ran his car into a ditch on Highway 30 between St. Helens and Rainier in the early hours of April 1. He said he swerved to avoid hitting a deer.

He said he was not drunk, but added that he’d had “a few drinks” over a five-hour span during a Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District fundraising event at a casino outside Longview. He would not specify exactly how many alcoholic drinks he consumed.

“I know my record speaks for itself and when this politically driven investigation is finished by my opponent, I am confident my name will be cleared,” wrote Fuller in a statement to the Spotlight.

Dickerson denies the Fuller investigation had anything to do with the upcoming election, but was instead a needed response to a "serious matter."

"If someone admits to drinking and driving and crashes his car, we are going to investigate that," Dickerson said.

Fuller had been on paid administrative leave since May 18, pending the investigations. He retired Sept. 5 while still under investigation by the sheriff’s office, according to Undersheriff Andy Moyer.

Moyer said the allegation that Fuller was intoxicated stemmed from interviews the department conducted with people who traveled on a bus to the casino with Fuller.

Currently the only charge filed against Fuller is a citation issued by the Oregon State Police for failing to report the crash.

Fuller believed the incident was so minor it didn’t merit reporting. The cost of damage to his car came to $900, he said.

According to Moyer, OSP troopers looked into whether Fuller may have been intoxicated when the crash occurred. The trouble was that because the incident wasn't reported immediately, any evidence investigators could have gathered if Fuller had been driving drunk was long gone.

“There was no report of the accident until... a month later,” Moyer said. “That's hard whether we're investigating a deputy or whether we're investigating a private citizen.”

OSP Lt. Gregg Hastings and Dickerson, citing employee confidentiality concerns, would not elaborate on many specifics surrounding the two related investigations.

The former deputy's retirement wrapped up a career at the Sheriff’s Office that spanned 29 years. Fuller, who has been on paid leave for months, said he wanted to devote time to running his campaign.

Because of his own campaign for re-election, Dickerson has directed questions regarding the case to Moyer.

Fuller, who has expressed contempt for his former employer, said the candidacy represents a “win-win.” It’s a win if he becomes sheriff, he said, and it’s a win to no longer work for Dickerson.

-Stover E. Harger III contributed to this report.

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