Grant County Sheriff Facing Ethics Complaint Rescinds Resignation

By Emily Cureton Cook (OPB)
Bend, Ore. Aug. 21, 2019 9 p.m.

A sheriff in eastern Oregon who announced he would resign the day after being notified of an ethics complaint against him, now says he will stay on the job and seek reelection for a sixth term.


Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer told county officials at a public meeting last week he would quit. But he wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday, “I am withdrawing my resignation.”

A former Oregon State Police officer filed the latest ethics complaint with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, or DPSST, a state agency that enforces minimum standards for peace officers.

The complaint alleges Palmer failed to return lost property — in this case, a fishing pole with the owner’s name engraved on it. The complaint alleges Palmer kept the pole out of personal animosity toward a retired Oregon State Police officer, Gordon Larson.

Larson filed the ethics complaint. He said the lost fishing pole “is a small piece of a much larger issue that talks about a sheriff willing to use all resources under his direction to try and damage a citizen.”

In 2018, Larson ran against and lost to Palmer’s younger brother Sam Palmer for a Grant County Commission seat. Larson claims the sheriff has repeatedly used his position to damage political opponents.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer stands at a roadblock on Highway 395 near Seneca, Ore., in a 2016 file photo.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer stands at a roadblock on Highway 395 near Seneca, Ore., in a 2016 file photo.

Amanda Peacher / OPB

Sheriff Palmer's politics were a flashpoint during the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, when he publicly sympathized with armed militia members who took over the refuge for 41 days.

“Local officials, primarily the sheriff and those acting under his control, [are] trying to damage me and my family because of my political posture against the Malheur occupation, because I opposed his brother in a political race, and more importantly because we’ve called him out for his tactics,” Larson said.


Palmer declined to comment about the ethics complaint.

Palmer wrote on Facebook he intends to fight the allegations. "I will be staying on until the end of my term," he wrote, "and as long as this behavior continues, I will continue to seek reelection. I will be asking the voters for an unprecedented 6th term as your Sheriff.”

Grant County Judge Scott Myers said Palmer’s resignation was never formalized.

“Until I had it in writing and the ink was dry, I never even considered it a feasible statement,” Myers said.

DPSST’s policy committee plans to review the complaint at a Nov. 21 hearing.

The agency has received at least nine other complaints against Palmer in recent years. The Oregon Department of Justice concluded in 2017 the sheriff did not commit criminal acts by destroying public records and issuing handgun licenses to out-of-state residents.

The state received another complaint against Palmer and a deputy in February 2019, alleging the sheriff's office has a policy of not enforcing restraining orders. Investigator Kristen Hibberds determined the allegations were "outside of DPSST's jurisdiction."

Palmer is also known for appointing at least 65 special deputies — politically supportive volunteers, usually without law enforcement training — who are authorized to act in his name in Grant County.

The ethics complaint made by retired OSP officer Larson names two of these special county deputies: Jim Sproul and Dave Traylor, claiming the men “have written a number of vile, patently false and inflammatory remarks about me.”

Sproul and Traylor have challenged, in a separate and ongoing process, Larson’s right to use water from a creek on his ranch near Canyon City.

Palmer used his Facebook page, which has a law enforcement badge as its banner image, earlier this month to encourage people with a history of domestic violence to seek legal advice before buying a gun, despite a federal ban on domestic abusers buying firearms in place for the last 23 years.

He addresses “gun enthusiasts” in the Aug. 9 post and suggests that people who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes contact a lawyer to “see if your record can be expunged or removed.”