Whistleblower Sues Beleaguered Ex-Sheriff for $1 Million

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Former Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton demoted his assistant for commissioning an audit that showed sheriff’s officers were more violent toward black inmates in city jails, the officer claims in a $1 million lawsuit.

Retired Lt. Brent Ritchie on Wednesday sued Staton, Multnomah County and its Sheriff’s Office, in Federal Court. Station resigned in August last year amid multiple investigations.

Ritchie, who was Staton’s executive assistant for the final years of his 25-year career with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, commissioned an internal audit in early 2015 to analyze officers’ use of force.

The report showed that the city jails disproportionately subject black inmates to violent submission holds and Taser guns.

In Portland’s four main jails, black inmates were 27 percent of the inmate population between 2012 and 2014, yet the audit found that black inmates were subjected to 40 percent of use-of-force incidents during those years.

Ritchie says he presented the audit findings to Sheriff Staton on Aug. 26 last year. The next day, Ritchie says, he was demoted and exiled to a little-used building on the outer edge of the county.

“Sheriff Staton immediately ostracized plaintiff, stripped plaintiff of his position as the sheriff’s liaison with the county commissioners and the budget office,” the lawsuit states. “Sheriff Staton also directed plaintiff not to speak with any county commissioners or their staffs.”

Ritchie says he had no option but to resign four years before he had planned to.

Ritchie’s attorney, Sean Riddell, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Representatives for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Before Staton retired, members of the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee accused him of collecting personal information about committee members. In February 2016, Staton settled sexual harassment claims with former Chief Deputy Linda Yankee for more than $188,000.

Ritchie seeks at least $1 million for whistleblower violations and First Amendment violations, and economic losses of $10,000 a month.

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