YIR: Problems cause major staffing shake-ups at Sheriff's Office
YEAR IN REVIEW — No agency saw more change in 2018 than the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. The year was marked by staffing shake-ups that included at least three high level employees leaving after investigations, and the sheriff retiring from his elected position early.
In February, Sgt. Dustin Hald resigned from CCSO after an investigation into potential "policy violations," according to Sheriff's Office officials. Jeff Dickerson, who was serving as the county's sheriff at the time, said the investigation was over internal matters and was not connected to any suspicion of criminal activity. A few months later, in April 2018, Dickerson privately announced to CCSO staff his intent to leave his post early.
Dickerson later confirmed his planned exit and worked with Columbia County commissioners to hire an interim sheriff. Commissioners announced the vacancy and accepted applications from four candidates: Dave Brown, Jim Gibson, Anthony Miltich and current sheriff's lieutenant, Brian Pixley. Despite the public interview process, commissioners later changed course, opting instead to have Dickerson directly appoint Steve Salle as chief deputy sheriff to serve through the remainder of the year.
Around the same time, the county negotiated a $55,000 settlement agreement with Kellie Smith, a former Sheriff's Office reserve deputy who alleged she was subjected to unlawful employment practices, including sexual harassment. Sgt. Andy Moyer was a major subject of Smith's complaint. Three months later, Dickerson had exited and Salle was at the helm, but Moyer was on his way out. He had been investigated for his conduct twice prior to his resignation.
Moyer tendered his resignation and left CCSO in August, saying he wanted what's best for agency and no longer wanted to be a distraction.
At the same time, Moyer's colleague, Deputy Ryan Dews, was on administrative leave amid an investigation by Oregon State Police into an alleged domestic violence incident a few years prior.
No charges were ever filed against Dews, but after months on leave, he left the agency in October.
The following month, Pixley, one of the original candidates hoping to be appointed as interim sheriff, won the sheriff's seat in the Nov. 6 election. Pixley is slated to be sworn in as the new sheriff in early January.