After months of watching the walls close in on him, Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto announced this afternoon he's retiring from his 34-year law-enforcement career.
In a one-page written statement he addressed to his "troops," Giusto says he's decided to step down before the end of 2008. Giusto says in his retirement statement — first reported by The Portland Tribune
— that he's staying in office long enough to see a partial opening of Wapato Jail scheduled for this fall.
"When balancing the effect of continually declining resources on the Sheriff's Office and our public safety services and the political climate over the last five years, it is clear to me it is time to make the choice to retire," Giusto says in the statement.
"While it is an honor to be in the position I am, it has also been exhausting and has taken its toll on me personally," the statement says.
Next Tuesday, Feb. 12, a committee at the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training will vote on whether to recommend Giusto be stripped of his badge. The agency, which licenses all law-enforcement officers in Oregon, has been investigating since last April allegations that Giusto lied to the public on several occasions, including about what he knew regarding former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt's sexual abuse of a teen-age girl.
More recently, Giusto agreed to hand over control of the jails to the county commissioners after a special grand jury pointed out gross mismanagement at the county-run facilities.
Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen tells WWire today that Giusto made the right choice in stepping down.
"We've been obviously stuck in an awful lot of distracting battles that had to do with the sheriff that have kept us from focusing on what we're really trying to do here, which is to protect the public safety and serve our community," Cogen says.
Cogen says he hopes morale in the sheriff's office will improve under new leadership.
"It's been low. How could it not be low if every day people are looking to see if there's another headline that creates rancor and turmoil?" Cogen says. "I think this will be a positive, in that it will bring an end to that chapter."