BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Sergeant fired in April was let go for making racially charged statements in a morning briefing. According to the internal investigation obtained by KBND News, Sgt. Dan Bilyeu admitted to calling former President Obama a “porch monkey” during a conversation about the potential for local President’s Day protests. Several coworkers reported feeling uncomfortable after the comment; one deputy told the investigator Bilyeu had used the term several times in the past.
Sgt. Bilyeu was put on leave the day after that February briefing. Sheriff Shane Nelson says he wasn't fired for having a negative opinion of the former President, but for how he expressed that opinion. "Everybody can have their own political views. I just think when it crosses the line and becomes racially disparaging remarks, it’s unacceptable. There’s ways to say ‘I don’t respect how this person performs their duties; I don’t respect how this person is running their office.’ But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to resort to using derogatory terms."
Following the investigation, Bilyeu - who is white - admitted he called President Obama a "porch monkey," although he denied using the offensive term multiple times and said he didn’t know it could considered a racial slur. Sheriff Nelson says, "I look at the investigator’s findings. So, after that investigator has finished the investigation and writes that report, they give recommendations. We determine if there has been policy violations, and then I took action based on those sustained policy violations." Those violations include exhibiting unbecoming conduct and harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
Coworkers also reported Sgt. Bilyeu referred to a mandatory employee meeting with Sheriff Nelson as "a waste of time," earlier in February. The investigator found that to also be unbecoming conduct and insubordination. "He was exhibiting behavior that’s unacceptable," Sheriff Nelson tells KBND News. "I have an expectation of the supervisors I work with and the teammates I work with, and I expect them to lead by example."
The 22-year veteran of the agency responded to the claims in a letter to the Sheriff's Office, saying dealing with winter damage at his home contributed to his negative attitude at work.