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Staton says he's not going anywhere

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Multnomah County Sheriff Dan StatonEmbattled Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton says it will take a criminal indictment to force him from office before he’s ready.

Though he may retire before the end of his term, he is rejecting calls for him to resign now, following a string of recent headlines and allegations.

“I’m not going to be tried by the media,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, he planned to tell the union representing his law enforcement deputies that he would reject their call that he step down, citing “failed leadership.” Also expected this week is

release of an Oregon Department of Justice investigation of some of the allegations against him.

Staton has echoed many observers in saying the probe is unlikely to find criminal wrongdoing. Still, whether it finds criminal wrongdoing will determine whether he stays or goes, he says.

One wild card: it’s unclear to what extent DOJ investigators are looking at an allegation made by the law enforcement deputies’ union. Two weeks ago, a report circulated that Staton, on the eve of a potential no-confidence vote, may have tried to induce the union president to sway the outcome by mentioning a possible promotion. Staton admits mentioning the promotion, but denies it was intended to influence the union.

Regardless, the controversy will likely continue, according to the sheriff’s critics, who say the DOJ investigation is beside the point. It is believed to primarily look at a single allegation: whether Staton improperly collected information about members of a charter review committee.

The bigger issue is “more of a pattern of behavior,” according to Jason Heilbrun, president of Local 88 of AFSCME, which represents civilian employees of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. He echoes others in calling Staton vindictive and untruthful.

Staton has denied wrongdoing. But in light of his deputies’ complaints, Staton last week told the Portland Tribune he’d likely retire by the end of the year.

Confusingly, he then followed up by telling people, including other reporters and the county commissioners on Thursday, that he’s not resigning or leaving office.

The difference, he said later, is that in his mind, to resign, step down or leave right now, in light of the allegations made about him, would suggest he did something wrong. In contrast, retiring is just something that people his age tend to think about.

He may retire around the end of the year, or “I may not,” he added. “It depends on what I’m feeling at the time.”

On Thursday, he officially designated Mike Reese, a former Portland police chief, as his designated successor should he leave office before the end of his term. “Hopefully this will settle a few things,” he said to Reese in the hallway afterward, then reiterated that he’s not leaving.

Reese is friendly with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, who has been Staton’s most prominent critic. But later that day Kafoury released her strongest statement yet on his future, hinting strongly that Staton should resign.

“The people of Multnomah County deserve a functioning sheriff’s office. I’m hopeful that the fact the sheriff placed this item for immediate consideration today brings us one step closer to a resolution to this turmoil.”

Staton, for his part, says he’s been “targeted,” and thinks some on the county board want to make his office subordinate to them because he’s fought for his agency’s budget.

“I think they’re trying to get rid of a layer of ... check and balance,” he said.