Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer is suing Grant County for attorney fees related to a public records lawsuit filed in 2016.
Palmer and Civil Deputy Sally DeFord filed a complaint in Grant County Circuit Court March 16 against the county and the Grant County Court, asking a judge to declare that Palmer and DeFord are not liable for attorney fees from a lawsuit filed by The Oregonian newspaper, which first reported this story Wednesday.
The Oregonian sued Palmer, DeFord and the sheriff’s office to compel the disclosure of public records in May 2016. The suit was dismissed when the records were disclosed, but The Oregonian was awarded $28,337 in attorney fees.
Palmer and DeFord also incurred $41,355.62 in fees while represented by a private law firm, Hostetter Law Group, according to the new complaint, which claims the county must cover all of the fees.
Palmer and DeFord’s attorney, Benjamin Boyd of Hostetter Law Group, declined to comment for this story. County Judge Scott Myers said he would not discuss pending litigation.
The suit claims the county has a duty to defend Palmer and DeFord because The Oregonian’s lawsuit was based on “alleged acts or omissions” in the performance of their duties. Palmer and DeFord requested that the county provide legal counsel for their defense, but the county did not respond in a timely manner, so they retained private counsel, according to the suit.
Except in cases of malfeasance in office or willful or wanton neglect of duty, Oregon law requires public bodies, such as the county court, to defend its officers for acts occurring in the performance of their duties.
The Grant County Court declined to pay for the attorney fees in a unanimous decision in December 2016 after investigation determined the action was not covered by the Oregon Tort Claims Act.
Myers previously told the Eagle Palmer’s actions regarding the records were personal, not in his official duties as sheriff. He said District Attorney Jim Carpenter ordered Palmer and DeFord to produce the records when they were requested by The Oregonian, but the records were not released until the lawsuit was filed.
Myers said the county’s insurance company has also indicated it will not cover the sheriff in this matter.