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Deputies vote ‘no confidence’ in sheriff

This past election day, 82 percent of the Kitsap County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild voted no confidence in Sheriff Steve Boyer’s leadership and administration.

“He’s a nice guy and we like him,” said guild president and county detective Mike Rodrigue. “We just want him to be the leader we know he can be.”

According to guild members, discontent with the Boyer Administration bubbled to the surface over the last three years primarily because communication between active deputies and the Sheriff’s Office has steadily broken down. They expressed their grievances to him in a letter dated Nov. 6.

“The vote of no-confidence was issued to show Sheriff Boyer that it’s not just a few employees or the guild board that has an issue with the administration. It’s his entire staff,” Rodrigue explained. “We wanted to get his attention to let him know there is a problem so that we can work together to solve it.”

Boyer had no official comment to make as of Thursday, saying only that negotiations between the guild and the administration are ongoing.

As second in command, Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville issued a similar statement, saying that communications are opening up and talks are headed in a positive direction.

“We’ve been making great strides toward getting some of these communications issues straightened out, and we are optimistic about the future,” said Bonneville. “We are expecting that this can be resolved and that the agency will end up stronger than it is now.”

Rodrigue confirmed this week that guild members and the administration are, in fact, sitting down to hash out the problems at hand.

“They have been great meetings and we’re moving down a positive path,” Rodrigue said. “We are encouraged and pleased.”

The guild president still worries, however, how the public will perceive these discussions. Boyer’s office released the guild’s letter and other correspondence in response to public disclosure requests this week.

“We didn’t want this broadcast because we are afraid that it’s not going to reflect positively on the department,” said Rodrigue. “At no time has public safety been an issue. We are going to continue to work hard for the public, which is what the public deserves.”

The letter provides in detail five issues and several examples of those issues that trouble members of the Deputy Sheriff’s Guild:

• The first issue centers on a perception held among deputies that the sheriff and his administration have been either untruthful or deceptive concerning shift schedules, official grievances, state mandates and probation periods for deputies.

• The letter also alleged the sheriff and his administration have failed to comply with established policies and the collective bargaining agreement by not meeting timelines for holding collision review boards, not bargaining when necessary and not negotiating when an agreement was made to do so.

• The guild feels that both Boyer and Bonneville don’t trust their employees and lack confidence in the rank and file because the administration outlined a minute policy on how baseball caps are supposed to be worn, by commandeering certain duties otherwise performed by supervisors and questioning whether eligible sergeants in the department would make good lieutenants.

• Boyer doesn’t communicate effectively with his staff, according to the guild letter. Since talks on other matters have halted, there has been no action on some morale issues and there’s been a disinterest on the sheriff’s part in discussing potential policy changes with the guild for input.

• Finally, the guild says the sheriff’s administration displays improper conduct toward employees and prospective employees because disparaging comments have been made about the weight of some deputies. For instance disparaging comments and actions have allegedly been issued by the Sheriff’s Office, guild members say.

“This has all just been a communications gap,” said Rodrigue. “The vote wasn’t about trying to boot Boyer.”

In fact, according to the letter, “The vote was taken with no personal or political prejudice. It is submitted in the hope that you will acknowledge issues that have been brought before you and now act on them decisively and in a timely manner. We intend to support you in these efforts because we truly want you to succeed in bringing this agency to the highest level of efficiency and professionalism.”

The guild asked Boyer to submit within 14 days a plan for addressing the concerns listed and a plan of action for the agency.

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