SALEM – The state won’t investigate Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer’s complaint against his political opponent, John Day Police Sgt. Richard Gray.

Lt. Gregg Hastings, Oregon State Police spokesman, confirmed that Palmer’s complaint had been referred by the agency’s John Day Outpost office to Capt. Calvin Curths, director of OSP’s criminal investigations division.

“Capt. Curths reviewed the complaint with the Department of Justice, and both agencies concluded that no criminal investigation would be conducted,” Hastings said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

The OSP and DOJ declined to comment further.

The decision came just one week after Palmer went to John Day City Hall and complained that Gray had been going through files illegally in the sheriff’s office. At the base of his complaint was his contention that Gray admitted to that activity in remarks at the Oct. 11 candidate debate, held by the Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

The audiotape of the debate event doesn’t reveal an admission by Gray, who denied the allegation in subsequent interviews. He said he has only been in the department on business and said he looked for a case number, using the computer program shared by local agencies.

On Tuesday, Gray said he was not surprised by the decision, as he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong, but that the ruling was “good news.”

Gray and his boss, John Day Police Chief Richard Tirico, were both pleased that the state agencies acted quickly.

“Their findings confirm what I already knew, and that there was no evidence to support the allegations,” Tirico said. He issued a statement calling Gray “one of the most honest and professional men that I know.”

“I am glad to see that his name and reputation have been cleared,” Tirico said.

Palmer, meanwhile, was still concerned, and said he wasn’t aware of Gray’s use of the computer system at the time he filed his complaint. He noted that information came in an article in last week’s newspaper.

“Regardless of whether it is a hard paper file or an electronic file, he had no business doing what he did,” Palmer said. “It had to be from the city’s worksite on the city’s computer.”

He said that would be an election law issue and “a violation of the integrity of our records system.”

Asked if he felt there was a problem with computer access at his office, Tirico said his staff members have access on duty and can also respond to records requests. He said public information on the CAD system used by dispatch and the local law enforcement agencies is available to Gray, as well as members of the public under proper request. It is not the same as the state Law Enforcement Data System, which is strictly restricted.

“This is public record,” said Tirico.

Meanwhile, Gray remained barred from the Justice Center, which includes both the sheriff’s offices and county jail.

Palmer imposed that prohibition in a directive to his staff on Oct. 15, the same day he lodged his complaint with the city. In addition to barring Gray from the entire facility, Palmer said other John Day police officers are no longer allowed in the sheriff’s offices other than at the front counter, as any other member of the public. Officers, except for Gray, can access the jail through the sallyport but not the control room.

Palmer asked the city police to return their keys tothe facility and said deputies and Oregon State Police officers would have to provide backup in the event that an incident occurs in the jail.

Tirico said he planned to write a letter to Palmer, asking him to reconsider the ban on Gray and limitations on his officers.

He told the Eagle that Gray made three arrests last weekend, and deputies or state troopers had to come to the jail to handle the bookings. “There’s an impact on resources,” said Tirico.

The state decision came after a week of politically charged controversy. Here’s a recap of the developments:

• On Oct. 11, at the Chamber’s political debate, Palmer cites concerns about incidents where he says Forest Service officers used excessive force – such as pulling weapons on citizens – a few years ago. Gray responds that when undue force is alleged, there should be an investigation and a paper trail and a case number. “I can’t find a case number,” Gray said. “I’ve looked.”

• On Monday, Oct. 15, Palmer calls John Day city officials and meets with them at City Hall and also contacts the Blue Mountain Eagle to discuss his complaint. He contends that Gray admitted in the debate that he had been in the sheriff’s office, going through files.

• The Eagle contacts Gray for a response, and he says he didn’t go through the files, nor did he “admit” to doing so in the debate. He said case numbers are searchable on a computerized program shared by police agencies, so there would be no need to go to Palmer’s department to look for a case number.

• Asked about the Eagle’s audiotape from the debate, which doesn’t include any admission from Gray, Palmer says he felt Gray’s remarks meant he had been in the office files. He also says security camera tapes from his office will support his contention, but he hasn’t gone through them yet.

• Also Oct. 15, Palmer sends a memo to his staff advising them that Gray is no longer allowed in the Sheriff’s Office and that other members of the John Day police force are allowed limited access only to the jail.

• Palmer requests a spot on the County Court agenda to get approval for re-keying doors and adding locks to the file cabinets. He describes it as an emergency.

In his emails, Palmer refers to the security camera in the department.

“Whatever it might have been what he was looking for and regardless of his intent, he did what he did and it is recorded,” Palmer writes to the judge.

However, Palmer said in a separate interview last week that he had not looked at the security videos yet to find evidence of anyone going through the files without permission.

He said there’s a cost concern with such as search, as it could take a lot of time. Before launching a general review of the tapes, he hoped to narrow down the time frame for when he believes an incursion into the files took place. He also pointed out that the camera has a narrow gap in coverage near the file cabinets.

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