Sunriver Police Sgt. Joseph Patnode, who was struck by the former police chief during an altercation in December 2017, is the focus of a new investigation within the department.

Patnode has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 20 for allegedly mishandling an investigation into another police officer, Kasey Hughes, who was also placed on paid administrative leave.

The Sunriver Service District and Police Department are accusing Patnode of failing to act on information about Hughes’ reported misconduct in November 2018 and share it with supervisors in the department.

Patnode is accused of disobeying orders and sharing confidential information about Hughes with another officer.

Debbie Baker, board administrator for the service district, which oversees the police department, declined to discuss the investigations into Patnode and Hughes.

“We are doing our due diligence in taking a fair look at this,” Baker said.

Patnode challenged the accusations against him by filing a petition in Deschutes County Circuit Court to request a judge review the case.

Daniel Thenell, Patnode’s attorney, said his client has rights as a police officer and can only be disciplined if he willingly violated the department’s policy, which Thenell said he did not.

“Inadvertent violations are not willful violations,” Thenell said. “The district has to show that there was willful violation of policy.”

Thenell has concerns about conflicts of interest in how Patnode is being investigated. Thenell said the investigating officer, Lt. Michael Womer, has bad blood with Patnode since the two competed for the position of sergeant.

“You have a person who is investigating someone who used to be a competitor for the same position,” Thenell said. “That is just a classic conflict.”

Thenell raised his concerns with the service district’s legal counsel and requested a copy of a video recording, audio recording and transcript of an interview with Patnode from the investigation. But in a letter to Thenell, the service district’s attorney, Kathy Peck, declined to share the recordings and argued that Patnode was rightfully investigated.

Peck wrote that the district has no concerns with Womer leading the investigation. Womer has the full support of Police Chief Cory Darling, Peck wrote.

“Chief Darling is confident that he will conduct a fair and objective investigation and is not willing to remove him from that role,” Peck wrote.

No court hearing has been scheduled for Patnode’s petition, and he and Hughes remain indefinitely on paid administrative leave.

Patnode has worked for the Sunriver Police Department since September 2002 and earns an annual salary of $96,569. Hughes joined Sunriver Police in 2005, and earns an annual salary of $75,308. The department has 12 officers and one administrative staffer.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Patnode was at the center of an incident involving former Police Chief Marc Mills, who struck Patnode in the chest with a metal citizens patrol sign so hard Patnode’s head hit a wall. Both men were on duty at the police station at the time.

Mills resigned in February 2018. He later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of harassment and was ordered to pay a fine of $100.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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