A high-ranking member of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office on paid leave since April says he’s the latest honest cop to be retaliated against for angering Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson.
Last month, Capt. Deron McMaster filed a tort claim notice with the county alleging misconduct by Nelson and two men hired to perform an internal investigation for the sheriff’s office, Matt Ellington and Tim Moore.
In the claim, which was sent to Deschutes County Attorney David Doyle and Nelson, McMaster alleges Ellington and Moore have omitted from their ongoing investigation key evidence clearing McMaster, while pursuing a foregone plan to punish him.
“His rights have been stomped on by this sheriff and his poorly qualified investigators,” said McMaster’s attorney, Randy Harvey, who called Nelson a “loose cannon.”
In Oregon, people who believe an employer or government agency have violated their rights must file a tort claim notice prior to a lawsuit. No lawsuit has been filed by McMaster, and findings have not yet been issued in the conduct investigations against him.
But the eight-page McMaster tort claim notice is highly detailed and includes allegations that Nelson improperly concealed evidence involving his wife.
Harvey, of the Sherwood firm Employment Law Professionals, said his client filed the notice, “in case the sheriff decides to do something stupid.”
“We don’t believe there’s any substantial evidence to support anything against Capt. McMaster,” Harvey said.
Calls and emails to the sheriff’s office were not returned.
The McMaster matter is closely related to a scandal involving former sheriff’s Sgt. Richard “Deke” DeMars, which started coming to light in early 2020.
DeMars was found to have been having an affair with a subordinate deputy, Allie Lamb, around the same time he was investigated by Redmond Police for allegedly sexually abusing a different romantic partner.
At the time, Lamb lived in Bend with a boyfriend, next door to one of her supervisors, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Dizney.
DeMars lived in Redmond with his romantic partner and her two children. Their household shared a back fence with Nelson and his wife, according to McMaster’s tort notice.
As part of Ellington’s and Moore’s investigation into DeMars, the sheriff’s wife, Lisa, a former Bend Police officer, was interviewed. According to McMaster’s attorneys, Lisa Nelson told investigators she was aware of conflict in DeMars’ house as far back as 2016, because the two children occasionally came to her house during domestic disputes.
On Feb. 9, DeMars and Dizney arrived at McMasters’ house when McMaster was off duty. DeMars told McMaster he was having an affair with Lamb, according to the tort claim notice.
The next morning, McMaster went to the head of the patrol division and told him one of his sergeants was having an affair with a subordinate. DeMars was placed on leave and a week later, McMaster was interviewed as part of the internal investigation into DeMars.
Later that month, DeMars’ romantic partner texted McMaster to report being sexually abused. That case was investigated by a Redmond Police officer, who recommended the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office charge DeMars with sodomy. The district attorney’s office transferred the case to the Oregon Department of Justice, which has not filed any charges.
In April of this year, the sheriff’s office announced in a short statement that McMaster had been placed on paid leave due to a reported policy violation.
McMaster’s attorneys say the sheriff’s investigators are seeking a finding that McMaster failed to report the alleged sexual abuse. Harvey says that’s “a laugh” because Nelson’s own wife reportedly knew about trouble in DeMars’ home for years, a fact Nelson sought to conceal by denying numerous times to release her interview, Harvey said.
McMaster has worked many roles at the sheriff’s office, including as the jail commander and, until he was placed on leave, as head of the detective division. According to his notice, he had never been the subject of a conduct investigation before this one.
DeMars and Allie Lamb are now married. He resigned prior to the conclusion of his internal investigation. She remains employed with the sheriff’s office.
Dizney was disciplined and returned to work after earning $112,000 on paid leave.