• Last modified 1874 days ago (June 6, 2019)


Ex-deputy questions sheriff’s leadership

Staff writer

Internal issues are causing problems for the sheriff’s office, according to a deputy who was encouraged to resign.

But Sheriff Rob Craft has declined to comment on the allegations, saying only that the former deputy “didn’t work out.”

A dispute between the deputy and his landlord regarding a flooded basement apparently was a tipping point for former deputy David Harper-Head, who had been on the job a year and a half.

Authorities somehow became aware of the dispute. Because Harper-Head worked full-time for Craft and part-time for Bruce Burke, chief of police in Peabody, where the rental property was located, Hillsboro chief Dan Kinning was called to investigate.

Kinning could not be reached for comment Friday through Tuesday because of a family emergency. Landlord Rodney Oursler declined to talk about what happened between him and Harper-Head.

“At this point I really can’t discuss that,” Oursler said. “I need to verify some stuff before I can. There’s some pretty major stuff there.”

The incident itself apparently was not mentioned when Harper-Head was encouraged to resign.

He said he was called into Craft’s office the morning of May 14 and was told it was time to “part ways.”

“He said it was an accumulation of things,” Harper-Head said. “He’d heard that I’d been unhappy for some time and I’d applied for other jobs. He said it was best that we part ways.”

He said the sheriff told him he “was not contributing to a positive image.”

According to Harper-Head, there has been a lot of strife in the department.

“The sheriff doesn’t want people going out and doing anything,” he said. “He wants the perception for Marion County that we don’t have crime.”

Harper-Head disagrees with that image.

“Marion County has a very bad methamphetamine problem, and right now we have a significant burglary problem,” he said.

The sheriff sometimes downplays incidents to maintain a perception of low crime rates, he said.

He cited as an example an accident in which a driver had both drugs and weapons in his possession.

Harper-Head wanted to notify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but Craft told him to leave it alone.

“I have a feeling that Rob’s going to try to taint that case,” he said. “I’ve seen him change reports. I’ve seen him pressure deputies to change [offense reports] to information reports.”

In the past year, the sheriff’s office has taken reports on two major burglaries.

In the most recent one, Harper-Head said, he ended up having to work the crime scene himself although Craft was supposed to come help gather crime evidence.

“He bailed on me,” Harper-Head said.

The case is now in the hands of detective Derek Fetrow, who Harper-Head contends already has an overwhelming caseload.

“I feel terrible for the victim in that case,” Harper-Head said.

He thought the sheriff thought everything would be OK because the victim had insurance.

Harper-Head said too many deputies spend their hours inside the office or at home instead of on patrol.

He said he wanted criminals who come to the county to be looking over their shoulders.

“That’s not happening,” he said.

When Harper-Head was pursuing a man wanted on a warrant and the suspect fled into a wooded area, he wanted to call in a tracking dog.

“The sheriff called me on my cell phone and told me to cancel, so we let him get away,” he said. “The sheriff is not being held accountable.”

During a New Year’s Eve incident at Goessel in which an armed man allegedly held his family hostage, Harper-Head summoned a Harvey County special response team with a negotiator.

“I got told I blew it out of proportion,” he said. “If we had not gotten the assistance from Harvey County, we probably would have had to shoot him.”

Harper-Head said dispatchers were required to message Craft about every call for every department.

“There was goofy stuff going on for a long time,” he said.

Craft said he didn’t recall telling Harper-Head he had blown the Goessel situation out of proportion. He declined to discuss Harper-Head’s other claims.

“I’m not going to dredge up everything that went on,” Craft said. “It just didn’t work out.”

Aaron Slater, who resigned from the sheriff’s department to work as a Marion police officer, said “personal reasons” prompted him to make the move.

“I figured since I moved to Marion, I wanted to work for the community I lived in,” Slater said.

He declined to comment on his time as a deputy but said the police department’s leadership, under chief Clinton Jeffrey, made for a well-run department and kept the community safe.

This is not the first time Harper-Head has complained about employment situations.

When he worked for the Chickasha, Oklahoma, police department, he filed a complaint about violation of his rights by a lieutenant.

The matter went to arbitration, and the city agreed in 2016 to purchase his house as part of settlement of the dispute.

In Marion County, the sheriff’s department has three new deputies and is seeking one more, to fill Harper-Head’s position.

Craft said two of the new deputies were hired to augment the department. Increased caseloads and more calls have made the hires necessary, Craft said.

Last modified June 6, 2019