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Sheriff who met occupiers plans to sue city

PENDLETON — An Oregon sheriff under investigation for meeting with those who occupied a national wildlife refuge has filed notice that he plans to sue the city of John Day.

The East Oregonian newspaper reports an attorney for Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer alleges that a dispatcher breached a contract by withholding information about the Jan. 26 traffic stop that led to the arrest of standoff leader Ammon Bundy and the shooting death of occupier Robert "LaVoy" Finicum.

Palmer was traveling toward the roadblock, and the notice says the lack of information put his life in danger, especially since the dispatcher told officers that the sheriff was traveling with an occupier.

Palmer's attorney, Benjamin Boyd, said the passenger was Jim Carpenter, the Grant County district attorney.

Palmer twice met with occupiers who traveled to visit him, generating some complaints he was supporting lawbreakers. The state Justice Department announced last month it would investigate Palmer's actions.

In her complaint about Palmer, Valerie Luttrell, John Day's manager of emergency communications, said federal and state authorities viewed the sheriff as a security leak, and that's why the dispatcher kept him out of the loop on the night of the traffic stop.

City Manager Peggy Gray said Tuesday that the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Palmer has repeatedly declined to return calls about the complaints, and the tort notice represents his first public defense. Such a notice is required before filing a lawsuit against a public body.

The notice said Luttrell's assertion that Palmer openly shows support for the occupiers on social media is false, as is the allegation he was consorting with them. John Day Police Chief Richard Gray expressed similar concerns in his complaint about the sheriff, and the notice said his words are also false.

Palmer has been sheriff of the sparsely populated and politically conservative county since 2000. His county borders the one in which the 41-day standoff took place.

He belongs to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which describes itself as the "last line of defense standing between the overreaching federal government and your Constitutionally guaranteed rights."