Our Sheriffs Continue to Cover Themselves in Glory, Or Something

Our county sheriffs are engaged in a Sideshow Bob rake routine, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The Legislature is considering a package of reforms to the system, including an end to profiteering off contract work and tightening up the standards for unprofessional conduct.

And the sheriffs seem bent on ensuring the reforms become law.

We’d previously seen numerous disgraceful aspects of the sheriffin’ trade. Now, just in time for committee hearings on the reform bill, we’ve got a fresh crop including more badness from former Orange County sheriff Bill Bohnyak, a retiring sheriff tossing bags of loot around the office, and the questionable finances of a newly-elected sheriff who won office despite facing an assault charge.

Real bunch of prize specimens we’ve got here.

First, Bohnyak, who was the goddamn president of the National Sheriffs Association until he managed to lose re-election to part-time deputy George Contois, and has since revealed his utter unfitness for any sort of leadership. After requesting a recount that didn’t change the outcome, Bohnyak apparently went into a sulk and refused to take part in any sort of transition. Instead, he seems to have urged his deputies to leave the department en masse and find new jobs,

Now, Contois is no great shakes himself. His response to Bohnyak’s freeze-out was to try to grab control of the department before his swearing-in. I don’t think the good people of Orange County can be any more confident in the new guy than they apparently were in the old.

The latest twist in the Bohnyak saga is that he has settled a charge of “unprofessional conduct” with the Vermont Criminal Justice Council. Bohnyak was dinged for assigning an unqualified deputy to handle sensitive cases involving sex crimes including crimes against children. Again, this is the nationwide leader of his profession we’re talking about here. Good riddance.

Next on the metaphorical docket is outgoing Caledonia County sheriff Dean Shatney, who gave lavish bonuses totaling $400,000 to himself and 15 deputies. In one case, the bonus amounted to 150% of a deputy’s annual salary. Killjoy Auditor Doug Hoffer said there’s nothing illegal about the bonuses, but it sure is fishy. “You have to wonder: Why were the amounts so high?” he said, “And that’s up to the sheriff.”

Seems like a great argument for giving the sheriffs a tighter leash on financial and managerial matters.

Finally, for now, is Franklin County sheriff-elect John Grismore, who was the only candidate on the ballot and won re-election despite being charged with repeatedly kicking a suspect in custody who was handcuffed at the time. Unfortunately for Grismore, the incident was caught on video. Hoffer has now asked the State Police to investigate Grismore and the department itself over of “questionable” financial records found during a routine audit.

These guys have no one but themselves to blame if the Legislature passes some robust reforms. They’re like drunk drivers begging to have the keys taken away.

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