October 1st, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Multnomah County, Cops and Courts

Staton Appointed Interim Sheriff (Over Randy Leonard's Pick)

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It felt like a coronation when Multnomah County commissioners this morning unanimously voted to appoint county Sheriff's Lt. Dan Staton as the interim sheriff. But there was an interesting political back story behind that unanimous vote, a decision that touched off an eruption of applause from several dozen sheriff's office staffers in the room. Afterward, Staton (pictured above) stood by the door as well-wishers filed past to hug him and hand him gifts.

The vote means Staton is officially set to replace Sheriff Bob Skipper, who agreed to step down on Nov. 5 after twice failing a test to become a certified police officer. After serving as interim sheriff, Staton said he intends to run for a full four-year term in the May primary. Skipper stood aside and quietly wept as he watched his hand-chosen successor receive his colleagues' congratulations.

But here's the back story: The day wasn't all defeat for the 70-year-old sheriff. With Staton in place as interim sheriff, Skipper won a low-key victory over the wishes of a powerful politico: City Commissioner Randy Leonard.

Leonard has spent the past week lobbying Skipper and others to choose his own favorite as interim sheriff: Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese of the Portland Police Bureau.

"It is not possible for there to be a better candidate for sheriff than Mike Reese," Leonard tells WW. "He is what this community wants. I just happen to know him better than most people at this point."

For readers who recall last year's conflict between Leonard and Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, this should come as no surprise. When it looked then as if Leonard might become the next police commissioner, he put Reese high on his short list of possible police chiefs.

Now that Leonard is out and Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman is in, it's Assistant Chief Brian Martinek who's most often mentioned as Sizer's chief-in-waiting.

The county commission was set to vote last week on whether to make Staton Skipper's heir. But Skipper tells WW he received a call from Reese just minutes before the meeting was set to start asking if he could become Skipper's interim instead.

Reese has not yet returned phone calls seeking comment.

Skipper said he told Reese he couldn't go back on his word to Staton. Minutes later, with the meeting in session, Commissioner Deborah Kafoury asked the board to put off the vote for one week, and the board agreed.

At last week's meeting, Kafoury said she needed more opportunity to consider the choice for interim sheriff after spending the week before the meeting thinking about another decision facing the board — who to appoint in Senate District 22.

But it turns out Kafoury is also a big fan of Reese, serving with him on the board of the nonprofit Transition Projects. Kafoury now tells WW she'd talked with Reese about becoming sheriff.

"Mike Reese is an exceptional individual and fully capable of serving at any number of public policy positions," Kafoury says.

Kafoury says it's no surprise Reese's name emerged — as a former Multnomah County deputy, she says, Reese had previously been on Skipper's own list of potential interims. But that was before Skipper had agreed to retire, and a source at the county says Reese turned down Skipper's offer.

The back-and-forth went all the way down to the wire. On Wednesday, the day before the vote, Skipper met with Kafoury at 4 pm and made a final plea for her to support Staton. Skipper says county Chair Ted Wheeler assured him that Wheeler, Commissioner Judy Shiprack and Commissioner Diane McKeel would all vote for Staton.

In the end, all five commissioners went over to Skipper's side.

"The motion before us was to accept the sheriff's pick. We can only accept or deny," Kafoury says. "The consensus among the commission was that the sheriff had done his due diligence and we should accept that decision."
 
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