Feedback: AG's Office Criticizes Sheriff's Department

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The state Attorney General's office is criticizing the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department for the way it handles employees involved in misconduct.

A report written by Watertown-based assistant Attorney General Deanna Nelson also says the department needs accreditation from an outside agency and to establish performance evaluations for employees.
 
Here's a copy of the report that was hand-delivered to Sheriff John Burns Thursday morning.
 
Althought the report points out three major deficiencies within the department, Sheriff Burns says he's pleased with it.

"I'm happy with it. I have no problem with the report. We'll move forward," he said.
 
The county legislature asked the Attorney General to investigate the sheriff's department in the wake of several alleged cases of misconduct by department employees.
 
The report is based on a two-hour meeting between sheriff's department officers and representatives of the Attorney General's office.
 
The report makes three recommendations:
 
- Establish a clearly articulated operating policy for handling incidents of possible misconduct involving sheriff's office employees.
 
- Institute a process whereby employee performance is goal-oriented and evaluated regularly to improve performance and accountability
 
- Seek accreditation with an outside agency, such as the state Division of Criminal Justice, to attain and maintain modern professional standards.
 
Some of the personnel problems at the sheriff's department include:
 
- Deputy Adam Hallett was suspended for having an open alcoholic beverage container in his patrol car.  Another deputy is also facing discipline in that case.
 
- A nurse at the county jail resigned after she admitted to improperly accessing someone's medical records.
 
- The county faces legal action filed by Deputy Krystal Rice that focuses on revealing photos of Rice that were allegedly taken for a pedophilia sting, and which she claims were misused.
 
- Jefferson County Undersheriff Andy Neff retired following accusations that he sexually harassed an Adams Center woman.
 
Sheriff Burns says he has already addressed some of the problems and says accreditation for his department would help too.

Accreditation means more money and training, and would include mandatory evaluations.

"For whatever reason, the county doesn't want us to have evaluations, so that's a big stumbling block for us as getting the accreditation," said Burns.

And while Sheriff Burns says he's pleased with the findings, Jefferson County Attorney David Paulsen says the report is just a start.

Lawmakers were hoping the Attorney General's office would lead a full investigation into the department.

"Policies they should put in place - I would have liked to see that addressed a little better," said Paulsen.

So what's next?
 
It's a question legislators will try to answer at their next board meeting.
 
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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