Grant County sheriff cleared by Department of Justice

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2015 file photo, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, left, hugs Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer as they enter a meeting with homeowners in Canyon City, Ore. The Oregon Department of Justice found insufficient evidence to file a criminal case against Palmer based on complaints that he destroyed public records and issued concealed handgun licenses to out-of-state residents. (Thomas Boyd /The Oregonian via AP, File)

SALEM — The Oregon Department of Justice has found no “concrete evidence” that Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer unlawfully destroyed public records or issued concealed handgun licenses to out-of-state residents who occupied a national wildlife refuge in Harney County last year.

Palmer had been under investigation by DOJ since March 2016, in the aftermath of the 41-day armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The state agency that oversees training and discipline for public safety officials received multiple complaints about Palmer, and recommended DOJ investigate him, according to previous reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The sheriff, who has been in office since 2000, met with occupiers of the remote wildlife sanctuary in January 2016.

County residents filed complaints alleging Palmer had issued concealed handgun licenses to occupiers from other states.

Palmer also faced accusations that he deleted public records after John Day Police Chief Richard Gray filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training alleging that Palmer deleted a 2012 report that involved Gray.

Palmer had accused Gray, his then-opponent in the 2012 race for sheriff, of going into his office, a claim the Oregon State Police found no evidence to support.

Knowingly destroying a public record is considered a misdemeanor under Oregon law.

But DOJ Chief Counsel Michael Slauson said there was insufficient evidence to prove Palmer’s criminal wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt in a letter to Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter, dated Oct. 10.

Slauson said that the investigation was limited to “potentially criminal matters,” and the department did not opine upon whether Palmer complied with county policies or public records retention laws.

DOJ reviewed complaints submitted to the state’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, interviewed witnesses, reviewed sheriff’s office records and policies, and court documents as part of a public records lawsuit filed by The Oregonian against the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

Palmer produced the records after the lawsuit was filed, but was ordered in June to pay $28,000 of the paper’s legal fees.

Linsay Hale, director of DPSST’s professional standards division, was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Other news outlets reported that an administrative committee within DPSST will look into the complaints about Palmer. Their review would have to do with professional standards for Oregon public safety professionals, not with state law.

A Grant County dispatcher said the sheriff’s office was unavailable for comment “after hours” Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

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