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Former sheriff defends Jackson County officials

Former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters defended county officials today after outgoing Sheriff Corey Falls said they treated him in a demeaning way.

In a Tuesday press conference, Falls said he was embarrassed and humiliated by the treatment he received from County Administrator Danny Jordan, Senior Deputy County Administrator Harvey Bragg and Jackson County Budget Committee members Craig Morris and Dick Rudisile.

Falls said the treatment helped convince him to take a job as director of police services and 21st century policing for the city of Gresham. His last day as sheriff is Friday.

Winters, one of six applicants seeking to be appointed interim sheriff, spoke out against Falls' allegations during a Wednesday Jackson County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“I’ve worked with everyone here, and they’re people of integrity and honor and they put themselves on the line every day for the county,” he said.

Commissioners plan to begin discussing the applicants and replacement process next week. The person selected by commissioners will fill out the remaining two years of Falls’ four-year term.

Winters said Budget Committee members Morris and Rudisile scrutinized his requests during the annual budgeting process and didn’t always give him what he wanted. Winters said Rudisile was especially tough on him in the beginning.

“It’s his job. It isn’t personal,” Winters said.

He noted the citizen members of the Budget Committee are volunteers who donate their time to serve the county.

Winters said he preferred to be spoken to in a blunt, straight-forward manner by Budget Committee members and county administrators.

He criticized Falls for pulling up stakes and leaving for a new job.

“What separates you as a leader is how you handle being told, ‘No,’ ” Winters said.

He said local residents need to know the county government has good leadership and is in strong financial condition.

At his Tuesday press conference, Falls said appointing Winters as interim sheriff would be a step back and would undo his work to help modernize and professionalize the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Falls defeated Winters to become sheriff.

Falls said appointing a person from within the department to serve as interim sheriff would be a good move.

The sheriff’s employee union has come out against Winters as interim sheriff, saying Falls implemented additional training, improved relations with diverse communities and worked well with his employees.

Following Falls’ press conference, county commissioners issued a press release saying they were saddened by Falls' allegations and wished him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

The press release stated Falls made a complaint regarding discrimination and harassment in December 2015, but an investigation and preliminary report concluded he had not been discriminated against or harassed.

“Prior to the completion and issuance of the investigatory report, Falls withdrew his complaint and stated that the investigation into his allegations need not be completed,” commissioners said in their press release.

Falls did not say in his press conference that he had experienced racist behavior or comments from any county officials, only that he had been treated in a demeaning manner and had been subjected to "micro-aggressions."

Falls did say someone posted a racially charged social-media post about him. When he took his concerns to the county's Human Resources Department, he said he was told the department would take no action about harassment or bullying of an elected official. Falls did not name the person who posted to social media.

Winters said he was bashed on social media during his time as sheriff.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Corey Falls
Mike Winters