BLOOMINGTON A candidate for sheriff said he voluntarily stepped down as the department's second-in-command in 2000, despite the current sheriff's public statement he was demoted.
Candidate Lt. Mike Emery said if Sheriff Dave Owens recorded the move as a demotion without his knowledge, he improperly divulged information in his personnel file in a letter to the editor. Owens said he stands by the letter and denied any wrongdoing in disclosing the information.
"Nothing that was discussed in the article was in his personnel file at all," Owens said.
Emery and Lt. Mike Essig, both of the sheriff's office, are campaigning for sheriff. Owen, who is retiring, is campaigning for Essig.
Essig did not return a message left at his home Monday evening.
Owens said in a letter to the editor in Saturday's Pantagraph that Emery was demoted for "neglect of duty for failing to report a serious rules violation by an employee of the sheriff's office." In a phone conversation Monday, Owens declined to give details on the alleged incident, saying it is a personnel issue.
Emery said he had never heard the accusation before Saturday and "I have no idea who it involves, when it occurred, how it occurred nothing."
Owens said he stands by his letter, and said he wrote it because he thought two letters for Emery's campaign misrepresented the fact that Emery had not been chief deputy for five years. Emery was appointed chief deputy in 1997 by then-Sheriff Steve Brienen, and became a lieutenant in 2000.
"I wouldn't have written a letter to the editor that wasn't true," Owens said.
The lieutenant said he and Owens disagreed in philosophy and on policies, and he voluntarily stepped down to lieutenant in July 2000.
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"It just seemed that the sheriff and I could not agree on the proper implementation of any programs," Emery said, later adding, "Since the chief deputy's position is an appointed position by the sheriff, I thought it was better and the honorable thing to do was to resign as chief deputy.
Owens said he remembers telling Emery he was demoted and thought Emery understood why, but Owens does not remember specifically what he told him at the time. He said Emery may not have heard the accusation made in his letter, but Owens did not have the burden in explaining why he was demoting an appointed employee as he would with a union employee.
Emery provided to The Pantagraph a copy of a letter Monday given to Owens, in which Emery requests copies of any internal investigations conducted in his departure as chief deputy, the outcome of any such investigations and copies of policies or procedures he is accused of violating.
Owens said he gave Emery's letter to State's Attorney Bill Yoder, whose office he expects will legally represent him. Eric Ruud, first assistant state's attorney for civil matters, said he didn't yet have enough information to express a legal opinion on the matter.
Emery said he did not know what was in all letters written on his behalf, and accused Owens of attacking his character for political reasons. Owens acknowledged his letter was politically motivated, but said it is ludicrous for Emery to imply Owens' letter is more politically motivated than those written for Emery's campaign.
Emery said there is no comparison.
"My campaign has been completely positive," Emery said. "It has been totally on my experience, my education."
Emery said he copied his personnel file Monday, adding, "It was interesting to discover that my 2000 employee performance evaluation is now missing from my personnel file."
Owens said of the performance review, "I will respond to him and not to The Pantagraph on that issue."