Sheriff turns to retiree to head internal investigations
Recently retired Conner would make $70 an hour
Recently retired Undersheriff Greg Conner would become a $70-an-hour consultant under a contract Spokane County commissioners may approve today.
Jeff Tower, the county’s remaining undersheriff, said officials hope to fill a temporary gap and save money.
If the contract is approved today, Conner is to take over the sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards, which investigates public and internal allegations against officers.
That will allow the office’s current manager, Lt. Gary Smith, to take over Lt. Patty Danner’s duties in the patrol division.
Tower said Danner has been out for several weeks with an off-duty injury, and administrators don’t know whether she will be able to return to work.
Conner was paid less – $57.89 an hour – before his July 1 retirement, but he won’t receive medical or retirement benefits as a contractor. He will, however, receive free parking, gymnasium privileges and the use of county office space and equipment.
Tower said the professional standards office traditionally has been managed by a “top-step” lieutenant whose annual compensation would be approximately $135,000, including benefits. Top pay for a lieutenant this year is $100,856.
At 40 hours a week, Conner’s contractual pay would come to $145,600, but Tower said sheriff’s administrators anticipate using Conner only 24 hours a week. That includes training someone already on the payroll to take over the office.
Currently, Tower said, “We don’t believe we have anyone else we could transfer into that office.”
He said “quite a few” officers have some training in internal affairs investigations, but none has Conner’s “wealth of experience.”
Internal investigations “can be very complex, and there are a lot of legal issues,” Tower said. “They’re quite a bit different than criminal investigations.”
Other departments have expressed interest in using Conner for personnel investigations that previously have been assigned to private attorneys, according to Tower.
The proposed contract expires at the end of next year and places no limit on the number of hours Conner may work. It would be administered by Tower and Marshall Farnell, the county’s chief executive officer.
Tower said Conner’s hours will depend on the sheriff’s budget and the number of investigations that are needed. He estimated the Office of Professional Standards conducts 60 to 70 investigations a year.
Conner joined the force in 1978 and set up the professional standards office in 1996. His first internal investigation led to the dismissal of Deputy Tom DiBartolo, who subsequently was convicted of murdering his wife, Patty DiBartolo.
Conner ran the office for nearly a dozen years and continued to supervise it when he was promoted to undersheriff in April 2007. Tower said there were no appeals of decisions based on his investigations.