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County counsel: Sheriff is overstepping his authority

The legal opinion was publicly released during a county court work session Wednesday.

By Kyle Spurr

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on October 21, 2015 6:09PM

Last changed on October 21, 2015 6:17PM

Grant County’s legal counsel released an opinion Wednesday claiming Sheriff Glenn Palmer is overstepping his authority by creating his own Public Lands Natural Resources Plan.

Palmer deputized 11 county residents last month to write and adopt the plan to invoke coordination with the U.S. Forest Service and influence the management of public lands.

Authority to create such a plan belongs to the county court, not the sheriff, according to county counsel Ron Yockim.

“Bottom line is he is overstepping his authority and reaching into legislative land use matters that are the county court’s role,” Yockim wrote. “He may have authority to develop plans and policies that are within his statutory authority as sheriff (e.g. law enforcement policies) but any coordination of these plans and policies is under a different coordination authority than the one he cited.”

The legal opinion was publicly released during a county court work session Wednesday. The work session was scheduled to discuss concerns about the working relationship between the sheriff and the Forest Service.

Palmer did not attend the work session. He declined to comment on why he did not attend, but did say he believes the county court should not be getting involved with another elected official’s business.

“It’s none of the county court’s business to interject themselves into another elected officials affairs like this,” Palmer said.

Commissioner Chris Labhart said he called for the work session after reading Palmer’s comments in a Blue Mountain Eagle article earlier this month where he said, “I ask for things from the Forest Service to do my job, and I get the door shut in my face.”

Labhart hoped the work session would open dialog between the two parties and asked each to submit questions. No questions were submitted by the sheriff.

Steve Beverlin, forest supervisor on the Malheur National Forest, had four questions:

• Did the county court authorize the sheriff to send a letter Oct. 9 to Beverlin and other forest officials stating the county is asserting the coordination process with the Forest Serive?

• Does the sheriff have the statutory authority to represent or commit the county in such matters without the county court approval?

• Did county counsel review and approve the Oct. 9 letter?

• Was the sheriff’s plan approved per public notification and other requirements set forth in state or federal statute?

The answer to each question by the county court was, “No.”

At the work session, Beverlin expressed how he has tried to contact Palmer through email, phone calls and letters encouraging to him to meet and discuss coordination. Beverlin claims Palmer has declined to do so.

“I don’t know how to coordinate with somebody if they are not going to talk with me,” Beverlin said.

Palmer said he is willing to talk with Beverlin anytime, and insists the two have no personal disputes.

“My door is open to the man,” Palmer said.

Without the sheriff in attendance at Wednesday’s work session, the county court decided to end it early because any further discussion would be unfair to Palmer.

Before adjuring, the county court said it hoped the work session and legal opinion would give the sheriff incentive to reach out to Beverlin.

“I just want them to talk,” Labhart said.


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