Stark County Sheriff goes on the defense: Judge to report to governorIt’s up to the governor now.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
It’s up to the governor now.
The second half of a two-day administrative hearing to decide whether Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy will remain in office wrapped up Wednesday at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.
Tuhy took the stand at 9 a.m. to calmly address allegations made during Tuesday’s testimonies brought on by the prosecution.
In his near three hours of testimony, he addressed the purchase of vehicles and rifles; incidents involving dispatch; the compensation of deputies; background checks for potential employees, including deputies; the training of deputies; the use of Stark County Sheriff’s Office resources for personal reasons; the alleged theft from the House of Manna; the loss of staff and the allegations of a hostile work environment, including any lewd or inappropriate comments made by the sheriff.
With the exception of Dickinson Police Officer Todd Weiler, a former SCSO K-9 deputy, all witnesses Wednesday were called by the defense.
Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s testimonies will be forwarded to Gov. Jack Dalrymple by Surrogate Judge William F. Hodny with a report. Dalrymple has the authority to remove the sheriff, as it is an elected office. Once the governor’s office receives the report, it has 10 days to decide Tuhy’s and Stark County’s fate.
One of the biggest allegations made in the complaint against Tuhy was his use of inappropriate jokes that, in part, created the alleged hostile work environment.
“There’s some remarks made about different things,” Tuhy, a 40-year law enforcement veteran, said. “It relieves the stress.”
And while language used by deputies in private may not be appropriate for church, it wasn’t out of line, Deputy Gary Kuhn said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a church over there, but cop talk is cop talk and, have I heard anything inappropriate or shocking from anybody? No,” he said.
K-9 Deputy Jason Wallace agreed in his testimony later.
Tuhy’s toughness is another factor believed to contribute to the hostile work environment.
SCSO Criminal Clerk Daun Schaff, who has worked there for nearly two years, described Tuhy as “old school.”
“He expects you to do your job and show up on time,” she said.
When asked by Assistant Attorney General Julie Ann Lawyer if she perceived Tuhy as thinking employees weren’t working hard enough, Schaff answered, “At times, it does seem that way.”
Weiler testified that there was “non-stop yelling at the captain who took the brunt of the yelling. That was about a daily given event.”
Tuhy was allowed back on the stand to rebut Weiler’s statements.
“Is that your practice, non-stop yelling at the captain?” asked Bismarck-based attorney Michael Geiermann, who was acting as Tuhy’s legal counsel through the North Dakota State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“My practice is not yelling,” Tuhy answered.
Another assertion was that Tuhy does not care about his employees.
“Our deputies literally have to count on each other for their lives,” Schaff said. “And now we have the people that I believe we can do that.”
Many of those still working at the SCSO asserted that Tuhy will ask about their well-being, in a personal and professional sense.
The high rate of turnover at the SCSO was addressed, but Tuhy said many deputies’ departures could be credited to a pursuit of different opportunities, especially those in the oil field.
“I’ve seen highway patrol and people that have been in law enforcement for almost 20 years quit to go out to the oil field,” Kuhn said. “And there’s a lot of opportunity out there right now and there’s a lot of people moving around. The (Dickinson) Police Department’s had a huge turnover too in the past couple years because of the oil field. I guess I can’t testify that it’s one or the other, but I believe a lot of it is because of the oil field.”
It was determined that 17 deputies have left the SCSO in the last three years, including retirements. The amount of turnover in that time at DPD was not established, though it was acknowledged by the court that it was higher than usual.
“I don’t think it has to do with this number of turnover,” Lawyer said. “I think it’s the reason for the turnover.”
Geiermann said that the complaint was brought about by disgruntled employees and the people of Stark County should decide who their sheriff is.
“First of all, he’s an elected official,” he said. “And this is a rather drastic remedy, your honor, because what this does is this takes away the will of the voters of Stark County who have elected this guy three different times.”
Those testifying Tuesday were Holly Bloodsaw, Richard Carney, Matt Keesler, Kuhn, Schaff, Tuhy, Wallace and Weiler.