Deputy dispute takes new turn

A Ward County deputy who has alleged discrimination within the Sheriff’s Department asked county commissioners Tuesday to reverse a sheriff’s decision on his latest employment matter, although he also referred to a settlement under which he would agree to resign.

Tim Poston mentioned a $150,000 settlement in talking to commissioners, most of whom indicated they had not previously heard of the offer. Outside the meeting, Poston explained he had stated verbally to the human resources coordinator that a $150,000 payment and purging of his personnel record would be required for him to resign with a promise not to speak poorly of the county. Poston has been raising issues related to the Sheriff’s Department since September.

After denying Poston a chance to address the commission at two previous meetings, Poston was given time on the Tuesday’s agenda to protest the sheriff’s decision to place him on unpaid leave due to his use of a prescription medicine. Poston said his doctor did not recommend any work restrictions, but he is willing to accept light duty.

“Reverse the decision of the sheriff. Put me on paid administrative leave until this is done or let me work in a light-duty capacity,” he said. “If he doesn’t provide me with this light-duty option, he is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Sheriff Bob Barnard declined to comment, citing legal advice from the county’s attorney. Poston said Barnard told him the department had no light duties for him.

“I should not have to suffer a financial penalty for his inability to come up with light duty work,” said Poston, who cited other occasions when as many as four deputies at once were on light duty.

The commission directed the human resources coordinator to review Poston’s documents and report to the personnel committee.

Poston said the turnover of 10 deputies since April 2016 indicates “huge managerial issues” in the Sheriff’s Department.

“This right there has to raise a red flag,” he said “How much does it cost to train another 10 deputies in that year and half? Right now we are not at full capacity so I find it very hard to believe that there is no light duty work to be had.”

Barnard said the department has lost 12 deputies from January 2016 through this year so far, and another deputy will be leaving soon. Of the 13 total, two were terminated, two retired and the rest left for other jobs.

Barnard said the department’s experience is similar to officer losses in the Minot Police Department and reflects a slower turnover with the waning of the oil boom.

Poston also continues to object to being placed on temporary unpaid leave in October due to ongoing conflict. Poston has alleged sexual harassment by State’s Attorney Roza Larson and hostile work environment in the Sheriff’s Department.