Multnomah County corrections deputies earlier this month voted narrowly not to endorse Sheriff Dan Staton for re-election.
The Multnomah County Corrections Deputies Association was Staton's biggest backer in 2010. But union leadership says Staton has been an absentee sheriff out of touch with what happens in his jails, the operations of which account for more than 80 percent of the sheriff's budget.
Staton is running unopposed for re-election on the May primary ballot.
"That vote could be portrayed as a vote of no confidence," Shawn Skeels, outgoing union president, tells WW. "His number one function is to maintain his jails. But the working conditions are the worst they have ever been.â
Skeels says the jails have lost staff even as the inmate population has become more challenging, with more serious cases of mental illness and more people on suicide watch.
The union leadership is supposed to meet with Staton on the first Tuesday of every month, Skeels says. But March was the first time Staton has had time to sit down in the last nine months.
The union will hold a re-vote next month at the request of some Staton supporters, whose ballots were not included. But Skeels said he anticipates the re-vote will draw out more disgruntled deputies as well.
"People are asking, 'What has the sheriff done for us?' Most are saying he hasn't done anything," Skeels says. "However the vote comes out, the message has been sent."
UPDATE, 8:30 pm:
Staton met with WW Tuesday afternoon to rebut Skeels' concerns about his absence.
"I don't steal any time from this agency," he said, estimating he spends 60-65 hours a week on work.
Staton provided WW a 15-point accomplishment list for his first term as sheriff. The list included lobbying the legislature for more state funding, implementing a "Sustainable Jail Project," buying TASERS for the jail staff and building relationships with community groups.