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Former sheriff urges Staton to step down

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Staton and Skipper on election night, May 18, 2010. Forced to step down early, Skipper had designated Staton to succeed him. The 2010 primary cemented Staton in the role. Former Multnomah County Sheriff Bob Skipper, who handed off his job to Dan Staton seven years ago, says it’s time for his successor to go.

In addition, the union representing patrol deputies Monday issued a statement of “no confidence” in the sheriff.

Skipper, who won three elections to the county’s top law enforcement job, came out of retirement after embattled sheriff Bernie Giusto stepped down in 2008. Unable to recertify with the state police standards agency, he designated Staton, then a lieutenant, as his interim replacement and stepped down himself.

Skipper lives in Gresham where his family operates a retail and wholesale nursery.

Skipper has met with Staton over coffee twice since February, both times urging him to resign. Staton told the Portland Tribune in an earlier interview that Skipper did so because he was concerned for Staton’s health and family.

But Skipper told The Tribune that he asked Staton to resign for the good of the agency. Based on what he’s hearing from Staton’s employees, Skipper says he’s lost faith in the sheriff’s ability to lead the agency and get along with other people.

Staton says he’s keeping Skipper’s opinion in mind, but he believes Skipper is essentially a mouthpiece for the law enforcement deputies’ union — a group that also has called on Skipper to resign.

“Bob is speaking for the deputy sheriff’s association,” Staton said. “I don’t know if he is speaking for all the members or just a handful or just the union leadership.”

The Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff’s Association’s vote followed two meetings last month with Staton. In a statement Monday, union president Matt Ferguson said: “Sheriff Staton leads ruthlessly and unpredictably through fear and favoritism, threatening to fire those in his way, yet rewarding those who get in line. He has fostered an environment of hostility, where those who constructively criticize his actions are met with retaliation, threats, and name-calling.”

Skipper is the first former top law enforcement executive to call on Staton to step down. He is the official who swore Staton in as a deputy 27 years ago.

Skipper says he’s kept his concerns private in the past, but he’s worried now that his comments have been “twisted” by Staton to other people.

“It’s what’s good for the agency in the long run,” Skipper says of his reasons. “That’s what I’m really concerned about. I’ve been around that office for 55 years … The people who work there are like my second family.

Skipper said that when news first broke that Chief Deputy Linda Yankee had filed a notice of a potential lawsuit over her treatment by Staton, he began hearing from people inside the agency that there was a bigger problem with the sheriff.

“I feel the agency has slipped, not the people there but I think the leadership has slipped,” he says. “And I guess I would say I’m disappointed with how it has played out.”

As sheriff, Skipper says he was always able to directly talk to county commissioners or the district attorney to iron out problems. Skipper said he also had good enough relations with his employees that once he was able to prevail upon the deputies to forgo raises in order to help preserve some jobs.

When Skipper designated Staton his successor, “people said , ‘Oh yeah, Dan’s a nice guy and that make sense … but it seems like that’s worn off, you know?”

He’s concerned that Staton is at an impasse with commissioners and doesn’t seem to have good relations with District Attorney Rod Underhill. Underhill signed a letter urging the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate Staton.

“Being able to get along with the board is crucial,” Skipper said. “And the DA, you definitely have to get along with the DA.”

On Friday, the Department of Justice released its report on whether Staton had committed any criminal wrongdoing. Investigators found insufficient evidence to justify charges.

Staton on Thursday told The Tribune that any such ruling would allow him to continue his agenda and complete a consolidation with the Fairview Police Department by the beginning of next year, at which point he would be tempted to retire.

“I’d like to try to finish what I’ve started, what I’m trying to accomplish,” Staton said.

But Stanton said he would resign when he feels he starts becoming a hindrance to the agency. “I don’t want to hurt the agency and I certainly don’t want to hurt the public that’s elected me to this office.”

Skipper said he last urged Staton to resign on April 7 over coffee at a Gresham restaurant. Because he'd heard that his earlier attempt to present the message had been portrayed internally as a message of support, this time he read aloud to Staton from a letter. “I am concerned that things are going to get worse for you and the sheriff’s office if you try to remain as sheriff,” he wrote in the letter. After reading it, he handed it to Staton, who took it with him as he left.

The Tribune recently filed a records request for all of Staton’s recent correspondence with former sheriffs. Staton did not produce the letter, saying through an intermediary that he had no such documents. Concealing a public record could be a criminal misdemeanor under Oregon law.

Asked Thursday why he didn’t produce the letter, Staton said he forgot about it, adding he felt it a personal matter.

“I considered it one friend to another,” he said. “I can’t apologize enough. I’m not trying to hide anything.”