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Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger Fights Board's Petition For His Removal From Office
Schwartzenberger and Lt. Michael Schmitz have been accused of workplae bullying
Earlier this month, the McKenzie County Board of Commissioners voted to petition for the removal of Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger from office following an investigation into workplace bullying.
Today, the board called a special meeting to discuss the status of the petition and to schedule a hearing to discuss further action against Lt. Michael Schmitz who is facing similar allegations.
"Doing what is right is not always popular," Sheriff Schwartzenberger said following the meeting.
Schwartzenberger has denied any wrongdoing. He says rather than bullying, he is holding his office to a higher standard.
"There's a culture of accountability that's never been in the office before. I've implemented a counseling system in the sheriff's office that's never been here before. It's not even in the county as far as I know. So holding people to a higher standard is what brings people to excellence."
Earlier this month, the board voted to place Lt. Michael Schmitz on unpaid administrative leave following an investigation into the allegations.
But Schwartzenberger says he has allowed Schmitz to continue to report to work.
Another officer, Travis Bateman, was acquitted of reckless endangerment charges earlier this year.
One citizen present at the meeting said he felt that the board of commissioners was on a witch hunt.
"No, I don't think there's any witch hunt," says Richard Cayko, chairman of the board. "This is something that we're elected to do. It's our job. We're just following the laws that are presented to us."
But Schwartzenberger says the board's actions have made it more difficult for him to do his job.
"The time involved in having to take care of this litigation and everything else that's going on, has taken away from my duties. But I still feel we have risen above this to serve the citizens of the county. As the chief law enforcement officer of this county, I will continue to do that," says Schwartzenberger.
But for how long Schwartzenberger will continue to do that remains to be seen as the board of commissioners continues to petition for his removal.
The acting state attorney Todd Schwarz is expected to decide this week whether to file the petition for Schwartzenberger's removal from office.
If the petition moves forward, the Attorney General will have 30 days to investigate the claims before making a recommendation to the Governor's office.
The board of commissioners will hold a hearing on November 15th to determine if any further action against Lt. Michael Schmitz will be taken.