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Spokane sheriff fires jail supervisor

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich fired one of his jail supervisors Wednesday for allegedly lying about two separate affairs with female subordinates and issuing a false document to get one of his lovers a new job that would have paid her up to $75,000 a year.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Gary Delzer, a 26-year veteran employee, was fired following an internal investigation. A separate sexual harassment inquiry involving a previous affair has been sent to the county’s human resources department, and that review continues, Knezovich said.

“Right now law enforcement is under scrutiny,” said Knezovich, referring to several publicized cases in Spokane and Spokane County.

“We need to rebuild the trust in our agencies across the board with our citizens. Integrity is everything. Honor is everything in law enforcement,” he said. “If you lose either one, you cannot perform this job.”

Delzer’s demise began two weeks after Knezovich was appointed sheriff to replace Mark Sterk, who retired earlier this year. At an April 25 meeting with the jail staff, Knezovich said that Delzer proposed adding a new jail position, which would pay between $63,000 and $75,000 a year.

Delzer also proposed giving that new job to a female corrections deputy who is currently making about $46,000, Knezovich said. Checking into rumors, the sheriff learned that Delzer was having an affair with the same female deputy he had hoped to promote. “As a matter of fact, in March 2006, he put her in for employee of the month,” Knezovich said.

“Based on that, I started the investigation,” he said, “and found that there had been some serious misconduct. Delzer consistently did not tell the truth to his superiors.”

In fact, Knezovich learned that on May 1 – just days after the sheriff denied the request for the new position – Delzer authored an e-mail to the Civil Service Commission indicating that the position had been approved with the sheriff’s blessing.

“And that was probably one of the biggest breaches of trust that I found in this entire investigation,” Knezovich said. “The public expects us to be above reproach when it comes to integrity. After the investigation was totally completed and we had a chance to discuss it, the only thing that we could do was to terminate him because of the lack of truthfulness.”

While researching the most recent affair, Knezovich learned that a different female jail deputy in March had filed a sexual harassment claim against Delzer. She claimed to have had an affair with Delzer between 1992 and 1999, the sheriff said.

“The allegations are that he kept her from job assignments and made it a hostile work environment for her,” Knezovich said. “The reason I pulled it out of the Sheriff’s Office to investigate was because of the nature of it. I wanted a total outside review of those allegations so there is no chance they would be tainted in any way. “

The complaint from the earlier affair was filed before Sterk retired to become a minister. But no action had been taken on the complaint until Knezovich got involved, he said.

“When I talked to jail supervisors, they were really encouraged and really happy to see that we were going to hold people to standards,” Knezovich said.

Knezovich is running against Sterk’s hand-picked successor, Spokane Valley Police Chief Cal Walker, in the upcoming Republican primary election.

Efforts to reach Sterk and Delzer were unsuccessful late Wednesday.

Knezovich expects Delzer – who is married – to appeal his termination. It would then be up to an arbitrator to decide the final outcome, he said.

“It’s a very, very sad thing to see a man’s career end in such a way,” Knezovich said. “In law enforcement, I can’t have someone I can’t trust to tell the truth.”

As for the female deputy who had the most recent affair with Delzer, she has become the brunt of talk and rumors within the jail, he said.

“It’s a horrible situation for her. I really feel for her,” Knezovich said. “The biggest casualties of this thing, besides public trust, are the families involved.”