CANYON CITY - Unsatisfactory performance of duties over several years and a number of other issues led to the termination Aug. 4 of Sgt. Steve McGuire, said Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer.
McGuire, an 18-year-veteran of the department, was suspended with pay July 30 and was later fired from his position as jail supervisor after a disciplinary hearing.
The suspension was the result of an issue he had with the sheriff over a work schedule that Palmer and Undersheriff Jim McNellis had directed him to prepare, according to McGuire.
There were a number of issues that led to the veteran deputy's dismissal from the department, Palmer said.
"I have a problem discussing (the department's) personnel issues, but now that Steve has made it public he is going to run for sheriff, I feel that I need to defend myself," Palmer said.
In a letter submitted to the Blue Mountain Eagle about his termination, McGuire wrote there were six items regarding the work schedule that he verified with McNellis.
The items included such things as changing from 12- to eight-hour shifts, having no overtime built into the schedule and keeping a female deputy on each shift (to reduce overtime due to female bookings).
Palmer said there had been prior issues with McGuire and the issue with the work schedule was what "brought it to a head."
"From of February 2001, I've been dealing with Steve," Palmer said. "Time after time, after time I've asked him to do, to do, to do, and when we bring him in to ask him about it, he'd have no good excuse. Why did you do this? 'I don't have a good answer' and that's the answer we'd get from him. I finally put it in writing to him in March (of this year). I gave it to him in a letter, that if you don't do this it could lead up to demotion, suspension without pay or termination."
Palmer said he sent a memo to the whole staff in June asking that bills be submitted for payment.
"The March 9th letter has the medical stuff (and directed McGuire) to work with the county health nurse, work with the groceries, get your people on line and make sure we're buying at the cheapest," Palmer said. "June of this year we put out a directive to get your bills put in by the end of the fiscal year so we can get them submitted for claims. We turn around and get hit with a $21,000 claim from the health department for medical from the hospital. We brought Steve and one of the other employees in and asked why didn't you get bills turned in so we could get them posted. All we got was 'we don't have a good answer, we don't have a good answer.' That's what we hear all the time. I can't continue to work like that."
Palmer also cited other problems in McGuire's job performance, including the dryer in the jail catching fire because nobody was cleaning the lint out of it and the stove and dishwasher being broken.
"That was Steve's job, that was his responsibility, that was his duty to see that those things were maintained," Palmer said. "It went for almost three years - three and a half - with me trying to get him to do his job. I can't continue to do this. It all rotates around insubordination and his failure to follow directions from either me or my undersheriff. I can't continue to work like this."
Palmer said he told Steve that he liked him, he is a very intelligent person and is very smart.
"He knows his job and I consider him one of the best corrections people in the state of Oregon, he's probably an expert at jail stuff and can recite case law and jail standards," Palmer said. "I just can't get him to do what I ask him. It boils down to flat-out insubordination and I don't know how else to put it. Nobody else in either the private sector or anywhere else in the public sector would give a person as many chances as I have (given him) since February 2001."
One of the other issues which led to McGuire's dismissal was cell searches. Palmer indicated there were no cell searches done in January (2004), four in February, four in March, 11 in April and 12 in May.
"This is when we had the federal prisoners," Palmer said. "I got on him in March about cell searches and they picked up in June when we were empty. There was no cell searches done from the end of October through December of 2003. From October, November and December and January there was absolutely no cell searches done back there in that jail. We've given him directive after directive to get back there and get cell searches done."
Palmer said lack of searches, particularly when there are INS inmates and Federal Marshal prisoners with their propensity to create contraband and make things, made it a hazardous situation for the staff and anyone else who might have been in the jail.
"The safety and security of the facility is at risk and I can't continue to work like that," Palmer said. "It was his duty and responsibility to make sure the jail is operating in a safe and efficient manner and its not. It borderlines gross misconduct and is definitely insubordination."
Palmer said he thought he'd been "more than fair" with McGuire and has given him a number of chances to make improvements.
"I've given him more chances and I wouldn't tell my kids twice (to do something). Why should I tell someone I'm paying pretty close to $40,000 a year to do his job over and over. I think I've been fair with him."
Palmer said had McGuire not mounted a political campaign, he wouldn't have made a statement on the firing.
"Now that it's been brought to the media, its a public record and I felt I needed to make a statement defending myself," Palmer siad. "I have nothing to hide."