SPOKANE, Wash.--Four retired Spokane County Sheriff's Office employees have formed a group to investigate Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.
The group alleges the Sheriff is too quick to fire employees and that he has fudged crime statistics. Meanwhile, the Sheriff told KREM 2 News that the allegations are ludicrous and that he has nothing to hide.
The former employees formed a group called “Integrity First.” Knezovich used the same name for a bill he tried to pass in Olympia. The bill pushed to make it easier to fire deputies who lie or break the law on duty.
The group admitted that the name was a dig at their former boss.
“Obviously, because that was a campaign slogan for him, that's part of the reason why the word is there,” said former SCSO employee Dave Reagan.
The group, Integrity First, is headed by Reagan. He worked as a sergeant and public information officer until his retirement.
Reagan said the Sheriff is too quick to fire his employees, which creates a hostile work environment.
“We don't feel that the community and the legislature are getting an accurate picture of activity within the sheriff's office,” said Reagan.
Yet, the Sheriff said he thinks the taxpayers deserve to have county employees held to a higher standard.
“Quite frankly, these people have an issue with the fact that the sheriff's office is as successful as we are,” he added.
Reagan referenced more than 40 employees that the Knezovich had terminated since he took over as Spokane County Sheriff. Reagan admitted that it is the Sheriff’s job to weed out “bad apples.”
“But not every employee who stubs his toe is a bad apple,” said Reagan.
However, Knezovich said the only complaints have come from people who have had disciplinary issues.
Reagan said he also suspects the Sheriff releases inaccurate crime numbers. Knezovich denied the accusation.
“That would be the worst thing any law enforcement leader could ever do,” he added. “For that accusation to be leveled, they're making that accusation to all of my staff.”
Knezovich said he receives his crime statistics from his employees.
“I didn't hear them make the claim last year when we were telling everyone how bad our stats were,” said Knezovich, “that burglary was up 54 percent.”
Reagan said he plans to file extensive public disclosure requests. The Sheriff said he hopes they do.
“This is smear campaign, it's that simple,” said Knezovich.
Integrity First also claimed that the Sheriff puts too many resources in major crimes and not enough in property crimes. Knezovich said he puts the most resources into the worst crimes and it pays off.