The same day Sheriff Glenn Palmer’s attorneys responded to an allegation he deleted a public record, a lawsuit was filed asking a judge to force him to release other records.
On Friday, May 20, Palmer’s attorneys, Benjamin Boyd and D. Zachary Hostetter, released a statement responding to a portion of a complaint filed with the Oregon police licensing agency by John Day Police Chief Richard Gray.
In addition to stating Palmer supported the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and endangered the public, Gray accused Palmer of “tampering with public records” by deleting an electronic record of an incident in 2012 involving Gray.
Palmer’s attorneys said in the statement the sheriff followed state law: “Although the electronic copy of the incident report was deleted, Sheriff Palmer retained hard copies of the initial report and final report in the records of Grant County Sheriff’s Office, where these public records have always been available for inspection and copying by the public, representatives of the press, the Department of Justice, and the (police licensing agency), as required by Oregon’s public records laws.”
The statement did not respond to the remainder of Gray’s complaint or the complaints filed with the licensing agency by at least seven others.
The police licensing agency forwarded complaints to the Oregon Department of Justice for further investigation in February. A DOJ investigation into an unspecified complaint is ongoing.
Also on Friday, the Portland newspaper The Oregonian and its reporter Les Zaitz filed a complaint against Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Palmer and civil deputy Sally DeFord in Grant County Circuit Court, seeking “to declare certain records to be ‘public records’ and to obtain disclosure of certain records.”
“For the past two months, Plaintiffs have made routine public records requests from Defendants,” the complaint states. “... At nearly every turn, however, Plaintiffs have met a stone wall of resistance.”
Oregon law requires public records to be disclosed, with the exception of certain records that are exempt.
The lawsuit seeks public email, phone and social media records; information about the number of concealed handgun licenses issued, crimes reported and arrests; arrest reports where Palmer was the primary arresting officer; communications with Salvatore Cascuccio, Fred Grant Kelly and the Oregon Firearms Federation; reports concerning the investigation and arrest of Scott Willingham; and reports about the 2015 hazardous materials response to a possible contaminated envelope received by Palmer.
Palmer, DeFord and county counsel Ron Yockim did not respond to requests for comment. Boyd said Hostetter Law Group is not representing Palmer in this lawsuit.
Palmer submitted a lengthy public records request to the city of John Day before serving the city with a tort claim notice, which serves as notice of his intent to sue and protects his right to do so in the future.
City Manager Peggy Gray said as of Monday the city had not been notified that the sheriff had filed the actual lawsuit in court.