BEND, OR -- The Deputy challenging Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson says he and his supporters have faced retaliation because of his campaign, and he’s threatened to sue the Sheriff's Office.
At a recent debate
, Deputy Eric Kozowski said he was encouraged to run by coworkers looking for a change of leadership. However, Detective Ron Brown tells KBND News he sees a very different situation at the agency. "From what I’m hearing, it’s fairly one-sided. Our Association has obviously spoken loudly that we endorse Sheriff Shane Nelson; we’re happy with the changes he’s making, with the progress he’s making and the direction our office is going. There’s a lot of discontent with the negative campaigning going on being used to trash the reputation of our Sheriff’s office, which isn’t accurate."
Det. Brown is a past President of the Deschutes County Sheriff Employees Association and a current member. Brown says Kozowski spoke at an association meeting several months ago and was told then members wanted to keep Sheriff Nelson. "It was overwhelming that day. The reaction that he got and the comments he got was that people are happy with Shane Nelson. They’re tired of him bashing our agency, saying things that aren’t true." He adds, "Sheriff Nelson came and spoke at the meeting and asked for our endorsement. So, a motion was put out to address that and make a vote on it. As a group, we decided that the only fair way to do it would be to put a written ballot to every member of the association." Detective Brown outlines the results of the secret ballot: "There were 94 in favor of endorsing Shane Nelson, two endorsing Eric Kozowski, and 28 people stated that they didn’t feel it was the association’s business to be endorsing anybody." The association is comprised of about 150 non-command and civilian support staff. Kozowski is a voting member of the association; Sheriff Nelson is not.
"They want a new direction, but they’re getting that. They’ve had that with Shane Nelson," says Det. Brown. "The words I’ve been hearing are that people are happy with the direction that Sheriff Nelson is going with his leadership." Brown says the vote against Kozowski was not personal, but an expression that members don't feel he's qualified to lead the agency.