Jefferson Legislature To Consider Sheriff's Department Problems


It appeared Friday night that the Jefferson County legislature is moving closer to intervening in the problems of the sheriff's department.

Shortly after 5 pm Friday, a notice of a special meeting was sent out. The meeting, at 7 pm Tuesday, is being called to "further address certain personnel matters within the Sheriff's Department and consider appropriate actions to be taken as a result."

Several legislators contacted Saturday said they did not know the specifics of Tuesday's meeting.

The Tuesday meeting is exactly two weeks since a closed door session in which Jefferson County Sheriff John Burns briefed legislators on his plans to discipline a deputy who was allegedly found with an open container of an alcoholic beverage, while parked on the side of the road in his department vehicle.

After that meeting, several legislators said privately that they would take no action for two weeks. It's not clear whether they were expecting further information or action from Burns, though legislature chair Carolyn Fitzpatrick has said in recent days that legislators wanted to give Burns a chance to "get it straightened out on his own."

Fitzpatrick did not return calls for additional comment Saturday.

Legislators have suggested the next step may be an independent investigation, something Burns has said he would accept. The legislature is under increasing pressure to act; the Watertown Times published editorials calling for action twice in less than a week.

Burns has defended himself and his department. On Thursday, he told 7 News "I think I've shown leadership" in handling the department's problems. 

Those problems include:

- Most recently, 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 is expected to submit his retirement papers next week. Neff has been off the job since accusations surfaced that he sexually harassed an Adams Center woman.

- As noted, Burns suspended one of his deputies for having an open alcoholic beverage container in his car. Another deputy is also facing discipline in that case.

Friday, December 2, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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