The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has opened numerous internal investigations over the past several years into policy violations by employees. It’s seen an exodus, with nearly two dozen employees leaving the office in the past year — most quit without allegations of misconduct, but six were fired.
But throughout the purge, the sheriff’s office has failed to come to a conclusion on alleged policy violations by one lieutenant.
Tim Leak was placed on administrative leave May 17, 2016. Since then, he has been paid about $182,000 to sit in his house during work hours. Sheriff Shane Nelson has declined to say what allegations are being investigated, but said they are not criminal.
More than a year and a half after being put on leave, Leak still hasn’t been interviewed about the alleged conduct.
“I’m aware of it,” Capt. Paul Garrison said of the length of the investigation and how much Leak has been paid while on leave. “It comes out of my budget. We would certainly like to resolve the situation sooner than later. Unfortunately with it being an employment matter and a personnel matter, I am limited with what I can disclose.”
Garrison said this is the longest time someone from the sheriff’s office has been on administrative leave, though he has heard of similar situations at larger departments around the state.
Garrison said the delay in the investigation is partly due to a lack of resources. The department hired John Bocciolatt, a retired Portland police officer, in 2015 to investigate Leak and former Capt. Scott Beard, who was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling money from the department. Bocciolatt wrote a single report about his investigation into both employees, but resigned from the position before interviewing Leak. A new independent investigator, Tim Moore formerly of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, has been hired and has gone through Bocciolatt’s report, but is working on other things and hasn’t had a chance to interview Leak yet, Garrison said. Garrison declined to say what Moore was working on, but said he is being paid $150 per hour.
In 2009, an investigation into allegations that Moore violated certification training procedures found insufficient evidence to charge Moore criminally, but did find that Moore falsified a training manual required for police certification. Darryl Nakahira, attorney for the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed it is the same Tim Moore his office is contracting with and said the office was not aware of the findings of the investigation when Moore was hired. However, Garrison said Moore was vetted, and retired in good standing as second in command in Multnomah County. He said Moore came with strong references and has contracted with other sheriff’s offices around the state and City County Insurance.
The goal is to interview Leak before the end of November, Garrison said, though the office has established time frames for the investigation before but has been unable to meet them.
“I realize that people from the outside looking in would probably have questions about the length of that, but there are things in the public sector that we have to take into account and be aware of,” Garrison said.
Garrison said the lengthy investigation is a distraction in the office and stirs up complaints from the public. Leak himself has disputed the validity of the investigation, filing a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries accusing Sheriff Nelson of harassment. The complaint was dismissed Sept. 26 due to lack of evidence, according to BOLI spokesperson Charlie Burr.
Garrison said this sort of investigation is part of a bigger leadership method under Nelson’s tenure, and although the investigation has stalled, it’s necessary.
“When you are trying to set that precedent that this is how the sheriff’s office will run, and you have (the Leak investigation) out there, it maybe looks like we aren’t doing that, but I assure you we are,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0376, email@example.com