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County Chair, DA ask Oregon Department of Justice to investigate Sheriff

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton is facing several allegation and now the Oregon Department of Justice may look into them.A letter from Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and District Attorney Rod Underhill asks the Oregon Department of Justice to review several accusations against county Sheriff Dan Staton. In addition to investigating harassment allegations included in a tort claim against Staton, the letter also requests the Department of Justice look into whether Staton overstepped his bounds when doing background checks on a county advisory committee, and whether he made threatening remarks.

The letter, released on Friday, Feb. 5, also asks the department to investigate if any of Staton's behavior violates criminal laws.

"We believe that it is of critical importance that any review and investigation of this nature be, and must be perceived to be, fair, thorough, and impartial. In separate conversations, you have confirmed to us that is also your belief. The Oregon Department of Justice is best situated to accomplish these goals," the letter says.

Kafoury previously told the Portland Tribune she asked for such a review in a telephone conversation with Rosenblum on Tuesday. Following news of that conversation, Staton issued a statement saying he agreed with Kafoury's request. Staton declined to say anything further after the letter was released.

You can read the letter here.

Following the receipt of the letter, DOJ spokesperson Kristina Edmunson said, "The Attorney General appreciates the referral of this matter by District Attorney Underhill and Chair Kafoury. DOJ has also received a request for an independent review from Sheriff Staton. The Attorney General would like to assure DA Underhill, Chair Kafoury and the public that the Oregon Department of Justice will conduct a fair, thorough and impartial review of the alleged misconduct to determine whether criminal charges are warranted."

Staton is facing a number of different allegations.

One is a tort claim notice filed by a top female department in the sheriff's office accusing him of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. The notice also says Staton used crude language to disparage a number of county officials, including Kafoury and Underhill. Such tort notices are required before the filing of law suits.

You can read the tort claim notice here.

A union official representing county employees also revealed that Staton had directed an office employee to find background information on members of a citizen commission appointed to propose possible ballot measures to amend the county charter. Among other things, the Multnomah County Charter Review Commission is considering whether the sheriff should be an appointed instead of elected position.

Information on some commission members was distributed at a Jan. 11 meeting between Staton, members of his staff, and union officials representing employees in the sheriff's office. The information appears to have come from internet searches.

After the issue was raised with Multnomah County Counsel's Office, the sheriff's office Information Technology department determined that no confidential law enforcement data bases were used during the searches. As part of his statement, Staton released a Jan. 27 letter from IT Manager Andrew Potter to County Counsel Jenny Madkour that appeared to clear Staton and other sheriff's office employees of wrongdoing

A Feb. 3 email from Madkour to Underhill says the internet searches were done because no biographical or other information was released on the commission members when they were appointed.

"The previous Charter review Process had included bio for each member of the Charter Review Committee. This time no bios were provided for committee members to the Sheriff's Office and the Sheriff wanted to be familiar with who the current members were on this year's committee," Madkour's email explains.

You can read the information on the commission members, the letter and the email, first obtained by Willamette Week, here.

The union official also alleges that Staton threatened violence against those wanting to change the status of the sheriff's position at the Jan. 11 meeting. Another union official at the meeting told KGW-TV News that he does not remember any threats of violence.

The Oregon Department of Justice is currently finishing up an investigation into changes that one or more of its own employees inappropriately collected information on private citizens. An investigator was placed on paid leave after it was revealed he monitored social media with the hashtag of the Black Lives Matter movement after the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

According to Edmunson, that report should be released later this month.