Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury says she’s disappointed that the state Department of Justice investigation of Sheriff Dan Staton did not go deeper.
State prosecutors announced Friday that they found no criminal wrongdoing by the sheriff.
Kafoury and District Attorney Rod Underhill had asked the DOJ to decide whether Staton illegally conducted background checks on members of the county charter review commission. They also wanted the state to investigate whether Staton tried to bribe a deputy to prevent a no-confidence vote and whether he threatened physical violence against opponents.
The DOJ's final report totaled 18 pages and included notes from interviews with nine people, including Staton. Kafoury said she was surprised that was all the work investigators did. She's requested audio tapes of investigators' interviews.
“I expected to get some more definitive answers. While they conclude there’s been no criminal wrongdoing, it’s really not a statement of support for the sheriff’s behavior,” she said. “It seemed light. It seemed like they basically asked the sheriff, ‘Hey did you break the law?' And he said, ‘No,’ and they said, ‘OK.’”
Kafoury said she expected the DOJ to interview members of his command staff, former sheriff’s office officials and members of the charter review committee.
Staton has denied any wrongdoing. In the investigation, he said he could not recall making the threats attributed to him by witnesses. He and an aide said that the background research his staff did on the charter review commission amounted to using Google, and did not include use of special law enforcement databases.
Staton's spokesman declined to comment on the report Friday and said the sheriff was not ready to talk about the findings.
The volunteer charter review commission is currently looking at a number of county policies and will recommend changes to go before voters in November. Among the things they’re considering: whether the sheriff should be changed from an elected to an appointed position.
Staton opposes that shift. Kafoury has not taken a stance on it, but she said she’s skeptical voters will approve it even if the charter review commission recommends the shift.
“I think the chances that the public is going to vote to take away their right to vote probably isn’t going to happen,” she said. “Does that mean I think the sheriff is doing a fabulous job? No.”