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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 six years ago, says it’s time for his successor to go.

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’s decision to go public came shortly before the union of county law enforcement deputies announced Monday an overwhelming vote of no-confidence against Staton, calling him ruthless and lacking in integrity.

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

But Skipper says he told Staton to resign for the good of the agency, adding that based on what he’s hearing from Staton’s employees, Skipper has 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 says. “I don’t know if he is speaking for all the members or just a handful or it’s just the union leadership.”

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

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

He says he urged Staton to resign twice, once in March, and again on April 7. Both meetings took place at a Gresham restaurant.

He’d heard from the deputies’ union after the first meeting that he supposedly had urged Staton to stay in office. Skipper says.. The second time, he read his position aloud to Staton from a letter he’d written out in advance. “I am concerned that things are going to get worse for you and the sheriff’s office if you try to remain as sheriff,” it said.

“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 potential lawsuit over alleged misogynist remarks, he began hearing from people inside the agency that there was a bigger problem with Staton.

“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 the county board or the district attorney to iron out problems. And he had good enough relations with his employees that once he was able to prevail upon the law enforcement 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?”

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

“Being able to get along with the board is crucial,” Skipper says. “And the DA — you definitely have to get along with the DA.” TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - In Sept. 2009 then-Sheriff Bob Skipper talked about his retirement plans after being unable to recertify his law enforcement credential as required. In the background was Dan Staton, who Skipper had designated his successor.

On Friday, a state justice department report summarized its investigation into whether Staton had committed any criminal wrongdoing. Investigators found insufficient evidence to justify charges.

Staton, on Thursday, said that outcome would allow him to continue his agenda and complete a consolidation with the Fairview police 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 says. But, he adds, he’ll go when he decides he is 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.”

Staton spoke highly of Skipper. “I’ve always considered Bob a friend... He swore me in as as deputy 27 years ago. I’ve known him my entire career.”

Letter not produced

The Portland Tribune recently issued Staton a formal Oregon Public Records Law request for all correspondence with former sheriffs. Staton, however, did not produce the letter, he was handed by Skipper saying through an intermediary that he had no responsive documents. The Tribune obtained it from another source. Concealing a public record is a criminal misdemeanor under Oregon law.

Asked why he didn’t produce the letter, Staton said he forgot about it. “I had that thing in my coat pocket and I never once gave it a thought,” he said. He also considered 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.”