BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has released documents related to the firing of former deputy Eric Kozowski, who challenged Sheriff Shane Nelson in the 2016 election. According to the outside investigators hired in mid-2016 to look into complaints involving Kozowski, he failed to follow Sheriff's Office policy on a number of occasions.
Dep. Kozowski was put on leave in September
; he was fired in late January
. Shortly thereafter, he filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Sheriff Nelson, claiming wrongful termination and retaliation. The Sheriff would not comment due to that pending litigation, but Captain Deron McMaster says the documents speak for themselves, "None of these allegations did any of the command staff go looking for. They’re all complaints that came into the Sheriff’s office or to the command staff ‘cold'." Capt. McMaster tells KBND News employees are not fired for running for office, but they are let go for not following policy, "One of the things that we here at the Sheriff’s Office are very big on is adherence to our mission and values. And, when we discover somebody who is not in alignment with our values and who does not follow our policy and procedures, then we’re going to take action and deal with it." He adds, "Those investigations were farmed out to independent investigators that were outside our own agency. I’m not able to go into anything about the politics of the situation."
During the internal investigation into the allegations, investigators found about half a dozen had merit, including not arresting a man with an outstanding warrant, failing to properly investigate a possible Measure 11 crime involving a juvenile victim and neglecting to follow up on a theft report. One allegation stems from a 2010 call for service, but the citizen didn’t come forward until he realized Kozowski was running for office. One complaint was "closed with exception." Allegations that Kozowski was not fully honest during a campaign debate with the Sheriff, and claimed he was misquoted by KBND News may have violated professional standards, but that investigation ended when Kozowski lost the election.
Capt. McMaster says of DCSO employees, "What we ask of them is that they give us a good day’s work for a good day’s pay; they serve with passion, they come to work and go the extra mile, and they do everything they can to serve our community."