Editorial: Sheriff Alex Villanueva is out but leaves behind a deeply damaged department
The Associated Press
January 23, 2013 – 3:25 PM
SHERIFF’SVILLE, Ore. — Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s death in an automobile accident, just days before he was set to announce he would not seek re-election, left a deeply damaged, demoralized agency and led to calls for reform, but also revealed the political machinations at work in county government.
After Villanueva’s death, Democratic officials and his Democratic opponent, former Sheriff Phil Kotecki, vowed to replace him. Villanueva’s death also has led to calls for an independent investigation into his death, as well as calls for reform for a department that has been beset with controversy for the last few years.
Villanueva’s death followed a year in which the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries received more than a dozen complaints about the county’s Sheriff’s Office and its treatment of inmates.
Bureau spokesman Adam McKean said the complaints, which were addressed to the agency and the agency made several changes aimed at curbing abuses, were referred to the OSHA and Oregon State Police for review.
McKean said he could not name the agency that received the complaints because it was not provided with the original complaints, an OSHA inquiry or any other documentation that would justify his actions.
Countys officials say the Sheriff’s Office has been the target of abuse for years, and that the agency began addressing complaints on the rise after Villanueva’s death. “We were taking the complaints seriously and doing our due diligence,” said Kotecki. “I have no question that it was all a combination of poor leadership and poor policies and I take responsibility for it,” he said.
In a statement, Kotecki said, “The last two years have proven that the Department’s problems cannot be solved through firing or politics. I hope to provide the tools necessary for the Department to solve its problems for