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Sheriff Bernie Giusto should resign

Editorial

Bernie Giusto, the ethically challenged sheriff of Multnomah County, needs to shed his self-imposed public silence just long enough this week to utter three simple words: 'I resign immediately.'

This newspaper and citizens of this county have had enough of a sheriff whose behavior and honesty fail the moral test that should be expected of a high-ranking official in Multnomah County.

The sheriff has refused to comment last week on the Oct. 5 letter he received from a state agency that all but accuses him of lying to the public. Although Giusto still has the option of fighting the allegations against him, it is obvious enough from this latest investigation - plus the enormous body of evidence already circulating in the public domain - that Giusto is unfit to be sheriff.

For the good of his office and for the betterment of the public, Giusto should voluntarily give up his badge and leave the sheriff's office prior to the Oct. 23 deadline imposed by the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

Behavior is well-documented

If Giusto doesn't resign by that date, his case will go before the full board that oversees the standards and training agency, and the board could revoke his certification to be a law-enforcement officer as early as Jan. 24. But we see no need for the sheriff's staff or the public to endure an appeals process that could drag on for months.

If there were any uncertainty about the behavior that led to this investigation of the sheriff, we wouldn't be so quick to call for his resignation. But the facts aren't shifting - only Giusto's interpretation of them.

The public already knows that Giusto changed his story about when he first heard rumors of former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt's sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl.

The public also is keenly aware that the sheriff used his public position to intervene on behalf of a 'close' woman friend - an intervention that happened to send his friend's husband off to an alcohol-treatment center. Now, the state investigation has found evidence that Giusto lied about when exactly he started his relationship with that friend.

Leave, or be recalled

The state's inquiry into Giusto's truthfulness was triggered by a complaint filed in April by a Tigard businessman. It claimed that many aspects of Giusto's public and private life amounted to 'moral turpitude.' If the state finds that Giusto failed to meet those moral standards, it can strip him of his law-enforcement credentials.

In apparent anticipation of such sanctions, Giusto now is advancing - via a spokesman - the novel argument that he can remain sheriff even if he is not certified as a law-enforcement officer. Plus, he is making plans to appeal his case in court if necessary.

Enough already.

The prevailing concern here isn't whether Giusto can find a legal loophole to cling to his office - it is whether the public and his employees are best served if he stays.

We believe the answer is no. During his past five years in office, Giusto has been dogged by several controversies - often involving his inability to separate his private life from his public responsibilities. People are tired of hearing about the sheriff being caught with his pants down, figuratively or literally.

And now that the state has spent five months looking into these complaints, the truth is laid bare: Our sheriff has lied to us on more than one occasion.

This kind of behavior describes someone who is morally deficient - not someone we want as county sheriff. That, in and of itself, is reason enough for Giusto to leave. We urge him to do so, and thereby save citizens the trouble of a recall.