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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
December 26, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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December 26, 2001

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,Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2001 'lib I Inside Section B 0 Arts & Entertainment Opinion & Perspective Letters to the Editor Vitals Keller that Sheriff Len Gard- seeking a second term, ected to in- for some of address some of those is- Gardner met with Publishing Friday, 14. the interview, a va- of issues were dis- including the change role of Undersheriff ? Bergstrand, who is against Gardner. regard- were ad- of the in- which was pub- I in last week's newspa- part, Gardner a police car use of verbatim in most some cases par- tatements are or are used instead of uestion or an- to clarify the question Inconse- comments have in some in- In addition, to limit of the story, ques- or remarks that do not alter the context or of the interview been removed. De- at the request of Gard- in the to assist in an- :some of the ques- I've been told attempted, or succeed- L counseling inmates t accepting Jesus as savior behind closed I have not to accept Have you dis- The inmates had done that, and come to me, asking they had a about what it said in And, yes, when come into the office, I it to them. (Gardner is specific in- invited by Gardner him behind in Gardner's of- an effort to convert The in- not being order to protect No, that is not He came to my office. I !call an inmate to the of. there's something be repaired, , cleaned or emptied. Came to my office. He Well, he knocked and said, "Can I uestion?" yOU can." "May I close the "Yes." He closed the door. He said, "I was reading this par- ticular passage, and I don't understand it. Can you ex- plain it?" So, I gave him my answer the best that I knew, what I thought it meant. And he left. And that was the extent of it. And I explained that to Ter- ry (Bergstrand). And he fully agreed at the time. I'm sure he doesn't agree now, but, at the time I did that, he agreed. He also agreed that I send a letter that (inmate Herman) Spliethof get an early release because he had employment. The employer wanted him there. I felt, as did Terry, that it was better that he be out ear- ly, making restitution to the victim than sitting in here. Newspaper: $55,000? Gardner: Yes, that's a lot of money. I felt the sooner he got started on making restitu. tion the better ft was for the victim. Because I don't think she's that young. Newspaper: She's in. firmed in a senior citizens home, suffering from Alzheimer's. Gardner: Oh, I didn't know that. I knew that she was somewhat elderly. Newspaper:. Is that com- mon (department) practi to be alone with an inmate be- hind closed doors under any circumstances? That just seems dangerous to me to subject yourself to being with an inmate behind closed doors with no one else around. I just think about all the kinds of things that could be done. Gardner: It wasn't that no- body else around any- where in the building, or they wouldn't known that I did it. When somebody asks me a question or wants to ask a question, I usually don't shine them on and say, "No, I don't want to talk about it." Newspaper: I understand that, but the closed-door thing seems (inappropriate). I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with it. As a matter of practical policy, I'm thinking you wouldn't want any of your deputies or your- self in a closed room casually with an inmate. Gardner'. You'll have a deputy and an inmate in a car going places. Especially with the ones working around here. They jump in the front seat with them. You see a uniformed guy with an inmate sitting next to him, going down the road. (At this point, DeCrona ex- plained that it's not unusual for remorseful inmates to need to speak to someone who is willing to listen to them.) Newspaper:. Have you tried to counsel any employ- ees (about becoming Chris. tlans)? Gardner: Yeah, when they've sought it out. Sheriff Len Gardmw says lff's department. Newspaper:. What about prospective employees who may have been inquiring about how to become a deputy?. Gardner: Am I under- standing you that, in order for them to become a deputy, they have to be a believer?. Newspaper:. That's the question I'm asking. Gardner:. No. I don't recall ever. As a matter of fact. (To DeCrona) You can probably explain the situation with counseling people when I took oflr'lce. That is, if you want to. DeCrona: I don't know what (the question means). I don't know where you guys are going with this. Gardner'. What he is say- ing is that, in order to be- come a deputy on this depart- ment, you have to be a Chris- tian. DeCrona: It's obvious that you don't. I mean, we have a number of them who We've hired that aren't. Gardner, Just recently. Newspaper: How do you know that? Gardner: Well. Good ques- tion. I guess I would have to say that I don't see anything exhibited in speech that would lead me to believe that they are. DeCrona: Well, there's cer- tainly no prerequisite. Gardner: No. (Laughs). There's no restriction. DeCrona: It's never brought up. Matter of fact, we don't--neither he nor I--are on the--I've been on the oral board. But (to Gardner), you've never been on the oral board, have you? Gardner: A couple of them a long time ago. Newspaper:. If I came in here and said, "Sheriff, I'm thinking of becoming a deputy. What do you think of that?." Would you ever ask that person, "What's your re lationship with God?" Gardner:. I don't think I would come out and ask them unless they brought it up. religion is not a factor in Newspaper: Wouldn't it be inappropriate at that point: "No, I shouldn't talk about that." Gardner:. No. Why would I not want to talk about it?. Newspaper: I hate to fall back on this (because) it sounds so much like (an at- torney): What about the need for the separation of church and state? Gardner: See, I don't be- lieve in the separation of church and state, per se, the way it's perceived around now. Newspaper: The law may say something different, though, than your personal belief about that. Gardner: If I'm told to be ready to offer up a defense for the hope that lives within me and somebody asks me, "Why do you have this hope?" or, "Why do you believe this way?" then i'm obligated to tell them. DeCrona: I don't know ff I'd be able to do that either. About how I feel about church and state, I can't an- swer that question. I don't know if I could do that. I don't know if I would sit there and preach to them. I also would not deny. I don't know what you mean. You got to ask a specific question concerning that. You know, questions of faith? Or what church do you go to? Or are there any good churches in town? It's a question that comes up all the time. Do you have a chaplaincy program? Absolutely, we have a chap- laincy program. What reli- gion are they?. What do they do? Those are questions em- ployees ask us all the time. And you can't just go, "Church and state. Separa- tion." You can't so that. Newspaper: The other ru- mor that I've heard several times is that (Gardner has) problems with Catholics, in particular. Gardner: Really?. Newspaper: Yes. From Photo by Dave Keller several people I've heard that in the last several years. DeCrona (to Gardner): You need to be really careful with this one. Gardner: Let me tell you. Let me see if this is right?. That the Pope is the an- tichrist? Newspaper: And that Catholics are the antichrist and tools of Satan? Gardner: And I've heard that rumor also. And, when I've heard it, I don't say things about Catholics be. cause I was a Catholic. I grew up in the Catholic Church. I was baptized when I was 5 years old. I was an altar boy. And my sister and I went to church religiously every Sun- day. We would not miss a mass. And it wasn't until I was--1977 is when I became a born again Christian. And I sought out other churches. Nope. When people have asked me, "Do you think Catholics are going to Heav- en? I say, "Yeah, there's a lot of Catholics going to Heaven. There's a lot of people in the Christian churches going to Hell, too." But I don't classify them as the antichrist. Newspaper: What about the Pope? Gardner: No, I don't con- sider the Pope the antichrist. Newspaper: The depart- ment lawnmower. I've been told the mower has been bor- rowed by you or your family and taken to your residence and used there. Gardner: That's correct. We borrowed it on several oc- casious because my lawn- mower broke down. And it's like other equipment we have back here (behind the depart- ment). I allow people who, if they need something, such as an air compressor or some of the property we've gotten (used), so they wouldn't have go out and borrow or buy a tractor or something like that. Yeah, I've allowed them to use it. DeCrona: That's recipro- cal, too. (DeCrona said that employees, including himself and Gardner, lend their equipment to the department for use.) Newspaper: How many times have you borrowed the mower. Gardner: Geez, I don't know. Couldn't even venture a guess. Newspaper: Less than 10? More than 10? Gardner: Well, let's just leave it at 10. Ten sounds good. (Laughs). Newspaper: Was it dam- aged any of those times? Gardner: No. Newspaper: It's never been damaged when you've used it?. Gardner: No. As a matter of fact, it's always come back cleaner and fuller of gas and oil than it ever left with. Newspaper: Has anyone ever complained to you about it? Neighbors maybe? Gardner: No. The neigh- bers aren't that close. It's a quiet motor. Why would they complain? Newspaper: Leftover lum- ber used for your workshop that belonged to the sheriffs department?. Gardner: Untrue. That is absolutely untrue. I have a receipt for every stick of wood in my workshop that I built. Newspaper: You were in- terested in hiring one of your sons as a correctional officer. He, in fact, tested and didn't finish first, but you still wanted to hire him until he decided otherwise. Gardner: Well, that's not entirely true. Somewhat true, but not entirely true. I think I've made it known around here that whoever puts in an application for employment will not just be rejected out- right. They can go through the process. My youngest sonKevin (not the son in question)-- when he applied, everybody was asking me, "How come you're letting your son test?" I said, "I'm letting him test, but I'm not going to hire him. He and I have already had that discussion." And, as a matter of fact, one time there was a heated discussion where he couldn't understand why I could not hire him. I said, "First of all, it's nepotism. Second of all, it wouldn't look right if I did that. But I will allow you to test to get the experience." And, I think it helped him out a great deal. He came in here, and it was an eye-opener for him. When (Sgt.) Mike Beatley got through with him, I think R improved him a great deal. So, when he started going and testing (at other depart- ments) he was more pre- pared. Reference my stepson, he came and applied for the same thing. He wasn't really interested in the job, per se; mge I Keller A. Bergstrand, who ins undersheriff for Len Gardner despite his authority taken has a different story at the depart- Gardner's claim, !in last week's edition of that he told is on light duty. not on light duty," claimed that, he recently asked whether he suf- from a disability, told him he is 48 disabled and should on light duty. said Bergstrand's lity is one of the rea- the undersheriff's have been taken away. the conversation never Bergstrand said. absolutely, not true," who is run- ning in the March primary against Gardner. Bergstrand said he is not sure how Gardner came up with the 48 percent figure, be- cause the information did not come from him. "That 48 percent term may be right," Bergstrand said. "I don't know. I would have to go over to human resources to ffmd out." Bergstrand said he does have medical restrictions, but these are not news to Gardner. During an interview with the newspaper, Bergstrand produced several documents from the county's human re- sources department. One is a February 1999 let- ter from Innovative Care Sys- tems, which explained Bergstrand's restrictions. "He is precl'uded from re- straining prisoners. He is precluded from lifting more than 20 pounds. He is pre- cluded from bending at the waist for more than two hours, standing for more than four hours, sitting more than six hours. He is preclud- ed from heavy work," the let- ter stated. Another document--called a Notice of Offer of Modified or Alternative Work--is a Ju- ly 1999 form that finalizes Bergstrand's acceptance of Gardner's offer to make him undersheriff. The document contains Gardner's signa- ture. Bergstrand contends the documents prove Gardner has known for a long time about his physical problems. The paperwork shows that he had "these limitations that don't stop me from doing the job," Bergstrand said. The paperwork "shows Len had knowledge of my limita- tions. It doesn't say any- where in there about light duty." And it's not sudden, Bergstrand said. "This limitation is some. thing Len and I talked about a lot during the campaign (in 1998)," Bergstrand said. "He was aware of it." Originally hurt in 1981, Bergstrand said he stayed in the field until he was 50, even though he could have retired. Bergstrand said the injury, which has improved since 1999, is not a risk to the safety of the community. "I see don't see how," he said. Bergstrand said he has not retired "because I can still do the job." Bergstrand said he also is troubled by Gardner's re- marks because the California elections law--called the Code of Fair Campaign Prac- tices-cautions candidates from making remarks such as the ones made by Gardner in last week's interview. The code states that candi- dates "shall not use or permit any appeal to negative preju- dice based on...physical health status...." Bergstrand contended, "I believe that he has already violated that (code) by dis- cussing my physical limita- tions (with the newspaper)." Has Bergstrand's condition changed in any way to make mulgstrmd,