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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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December 19, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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December 19, 2001
 

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ll ogressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2001 I '1 section B Arts & Entertainment Opinion & Perspective Letters to the Editor O Vitals l I 1 Gardner addresses the issues Keller we take their gun, badge and lease. ID. DeCrona: We all were. Or months, Sheriff at least I was. I can't speak has come under Newspaper: As a public for the department. scrutiny, in the safety issue? Gardner: Well, I was. I was and in the news- Gardner: Yes. under the impression that ', for some of his deci- DeCrona: Or stress? that's what I was told a long and actions. Gardner: Yes. time ago when we took office, who is seeking a DeCrona: If they go out on that he had a doctor's release sheriff in the stress, and that he could wear a uni- met with Gardner: If it's physical, form and he could go out and Friday, we try to accommodate them, do the normal things a to discuss those con-put them behind a desk. deputy could do tmtil just a We have a sergeant that'sfew weeks ago (when) I was the interview, a va- in that position right now. informed. were dis- He's on light duty; he's had I don't even know why I including the change back surgery. He sits behind asked the question. He came a desk. He does background and sat down, and I said, "Do Bergstrand, who is investigations for us, inter- you have a disability?." against Gardner. views, any reports that need He said, "Yes." uestions and answers to be reviewed. He's taken I said, "What is it?." in most over some responsibilities, DeCrona: I remember talk- In some cases, par- (including) paperwork that ing about--we were talking statements are Rod was doing because nowabout--percentages. to clarify a question or Rod is taking on more re-Gardner: Yes, I asked him Inconsequential sponsibilities that have come what percentage, and he said, been re- up because of the restriction "48 percent (disabled)." instances, in Terry's job. I said, "Does that make you Commander Rod De- light duty?." at the uest of Gard- Newspaper: Being on lightAnd he said, "Yes." to assist in an- some of the ques- one of the inter- . Bergstrand is dis- Part two of the inter- 'Will be published next I know you sensitive in some person- are involved, but as best you can, de- happened You know that I the board (of super- that his duties are that his re- get into a per- NO. not want to violate personnel issues be. then I can be sued and can be sued and I don't want that to how about if I (situ- duty--does that in any wayAs soon as he said that, prevent Terry Bergstrand that makes him light duty, from still being in the chain then I'm restricted (in how of command? Bergstrand can be used), ac- Gardner: Just in that con- cording to Peace Officer's text, no, just being on light Standards and Training. duty does not prevent that. DeCrona: (Bergstrand) But, you know, there are said, "48 percent, I'm light other situations that have duty." come up. And, what I have to The reason I know this is do is focus on what's best for because I have a percentage the department. (of disability). If we have two top-ranking And (Bergstrand) said, "48 people in the department go- percent, light duty." ing in different directions, And I said (to Bergstrand), and whatever comes down on "What is the percent? Does the department, it's my re- the percent have to do with sponsibility, the fact you're on light du- I have ultimate responsibil- ty?" ity for anything that hap- pens. They might accuse Rod of doing something or they might accuse Terry of doing something, but ultimately R falls on my shoulders. And that's what I'm trying to guard against. It's not that I've been angry with anybody, or vindictive with anybody or trying to re- taliate with anybody. I'm thinking about what's best for the department. That's what's important to me. Newspaper: So, how do OK. you answer your critics who When a deputy are saying, "It's awfully co- placed on incidental that Terry by a doctor, ac-Bergstrand took out papers to Peace ( Stan- to run against you for sheriff, now he's put on light duty and we and there seems to be some him to go out in correlation between the two. , mking car stops and It seems awfully coinciden- tal." result in further in- Gardner:. I was not aware that he was on light duty un- idea is to get himtil... (At this point Gardner up, so that he can go consulted with DeCrona to soon as pos-see if he could recall the date. DeCrona replied it was not of who thatuntil Bergstrand's "authority we don't take their was restricted.") away from them. take their guns Newspaper: Who put him on light duty?. Was it by doc- toffs orders? Gardner: It was a doctor who put him on light duty. See, I was under the impres- sion that he had a doctor's re- unless there is ind of psychological they might be through. and only then, would j Plumas County Sheriff Len which outlined allegations you drive a marked unit and wear a uniform?" Newspaper: I've been un- der the impression that, for five or six years, Bergstrand has had problems with his back. Are you saying it's new news to you that there has been some kind of physical problem? Gardner: No, no, no, no, no. It's nothing new at all. I knew that he had a back problem when I was cam- paigning the first time (in 199s). He was off then. And it was my understanding that he had recovered enough for the doctor to take him off of light duty. That was my understand- ing. DeCrona: He told me that he had to sign a waiver with the county, and I have never looked into that. I don't know... Gardner: I haven't seen one. Newspaper:. So he may As Len Gardner explains his point of lewa mt an issue, Patrol Commander Rod DeCrona listens In. So, I didn't even know he was on light duty. That was corroborated by the fact that he was wearing a uniform and was driving marked cars. Gardner: He had just made a car stop that morn. ing. DeCrona: He had been working in uniform, working football games, Forest Ser- vice patrol and things like that. And I said (to Bergstrand), "You're on light duty?. You're a light duty employee?" And (Bergstrand) said, -yes.,, And I asked him, "How can have signed a waiver with the county?. DeCrona: I don't know. I remember him saying that at one time, that he had signed some kind of waiver. Newspaper: This is the ob- vious follow-up question: Be- cause of the campaign, and the sensitivity of the cam- paign, and he's got (candida- cy) papers out, would it make sense for you to check to see if, in fact, he signed a waiver?. Which means, if he did, he re- ally wouldn't be on light duty with restricted responsibili- ties? DeCrona: I've never been in that position before, but I can just speak to the past practice--the norm--ff some- one tells me they're on light duty, that's not a good thing. In other words, I mean that would like--I don't know, I don't know how to explain that. To be on light duty is--rye never questioned anybody. They have to bring in a med- ical slip ff you're off, by coun- ty policy, more than three days. You have to bring in a medical slip. We have guys all the time that go off. (Employee) Kyle Howard, right now, is down. A week or two ago he was re- leased to full duty. A week later, he's back on work- man's comp. a moment, f t flff Len Gardner reacts to a quostio0n about ovurts ant Newspaper: To address the taxpayers, then how do you explain paying the un- dersheriff what he's earning Photos by Mike TaborskJ Gardner examines a news article from the newspaper, of potentid misco luct by the sheriff. and not earning what he's making?. Why strip all the du- ties? Let's take that a step further (addressing Gard- ner): You had a similar situa- tion about 10 years ago in which SheriffDon Stoy made the tough decision and put you in a situation where, probably against your better judgment, where you retired. Gardner: I was forced to retire. I don't like doing that because it happened to me. Newspaper: I know, but sometimes we do stuff we do not like to do, particularly when there's money in. volved. He's getting paid-- I'm not sure exactly what his salary is--but I think it's close to $70,000, if I'm not mistaken. He's getting paid lot of money to do what most people consider not a whole lot of work because he's on light duty. I think taxpayers would expect you to make the tough decision regardless of the political ramifications. Gardner:. Well that's what I was trying to avoid. And, because, quite honest- ly, if I did this, then I feared that you guys, being in the press, would come out and say, "The sheriff is retaliat- ing because (Bergstrand) is running." If you say that and drop R and don't say that he's on light duty, he's making all this much money and he's not doing any work--that was one of my fears, too. That, yes, he's here, he's been at this department for-- what?.--22 years or some- thing like that. I did not want to give the impression that it was, in fact, political and that I was retaliating against him. I have gone to him several times in the past, and said, "Terry, we've got to get this worked out. We got to get things resolved between you and I and get it reconciled so that we can get on with doing the people's business. We've got to run this department, and I can't be going in one di- rection and you going in an. other." Because, with some people, because of friendships or whatever, they're going to follow him, and some are go- ing to follow me. And it's going to split the department. And that's not what I'm after. DeCrona: Well, there hon- estly, I thought, too. Well, the heck with it. I thought there was hope for a reconciliation. Gardner:. So did I. DeCrOna: I think we all want to believe that because, like where all you guys work where you work together everyday, I've known Terry for 20-something years. I've supervised him. Obviously, their relationship--they're sheriff and undersheriff to- gether. It's not an easy thing to do, even in light of what's hap. pened, it's not easy to termi- nate someone. Newspaper: Despite his medical status, has Bergatrand expressed a will- ingness to work, to work it out whatever way he needed to, to have an attorney draft up something indemnifying the county against anything that arises from (working with an injury)? My u der- standing is that he wants to do the job he's been hired to do. Gardner: I think I need to tell you some things. I have gone to (Bergstrand), like I said, probably two or three times, wanting to get things worked out. He pproached me last week, and made a comment, to the effect, that he and I have been set up, and that's the reason we're having these problems. And that he had proof that it was some- body else who was doing it. During our conversation, he said, "I want my authority restored, and this is what I will do: I will not supervise the jail. I will not supervise dispatch. I will not supervise investigations. Any letter that goes out of here will have your signature on it, your permission." And I said, "l have that al. ready. So, what are you ask- Ing?" He said, -rli dO anythlng that you want." And I told him, "Terry, I can't make any promises, and I can't make a deal. So what is it that you're ask- ing?." And he said, "I've just been humbled, and I want my au- thority back." And, at that point, because there were some other things I was considering doing, I told him that I didn't know what I was going do that day, that I needed to seek some kind of counsel. I needed to seek what I should do from county coun- sel the attorney from the Cal- ifornia State Sheriff's Associ- ation and perhaps other sher- iffs who've been in this busi- ness, who've been in office for four or five terms and maybe have handled some- thing like this. So, I needed direction, I needed guidance; so, I didn't make a commitment, and we left it at that. That's the only time (he ex- pressed a willingness to work). DeCrona: There's one more point on there, in refer- ence to the question asked, "Can he sign a waiver to his job?" You can't sign a waiver. In other words, if I say, "OK, sheriff, I'm on light duty and my back's out and every- thing, but I'll sign a waiver and I'm going to put a uni- form on," it's not Just your- serf that's at risk. It's other officers. It's the citizens. If you're not 100 percent, you can't do the thing. It's the same thing with his position, relative to his philosophies. There's obviously a differ- ence of opinion here about how the department should be run. Newspaper: (To Gardner) When you mention the prob- lems you and he were having, I'm sensing that there has been a split in the directions that you're going, that there's a difference in philosophy on the department. Is that what you're referring to? Gardner'. I thought every- thing was going fine up until the time this thing.hit the pa- per. @Amkl , page a 't t