Carbon County Sheriff Barry Bryner is unsure of how to properly administer his office and has been unwilling to seek help but did not commit any crimes, a state review of his office has found.
A performance audit was sought by both the sheriff and Carbon County commissioners after a controversy erupted last year over the hiring and firing of sheriff's office personnel.The hefty report, issued by a three-member audit team appointed by Utah Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen, described the state of law enforcement in Carbon County as "unfortunate."
"Interviews with law enforcement personnel operating within Carbon County all have a common theme. Something has got to happen in the sheriff's office to avoid a total discrediting of law enforcement generally within Carbon County," the report concluded.
But the report did not go so far as to recommend that Bryner, who was elected to his post in 1986, be removed as sheriff or to say that he is guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.
Bryner was out of town and unavailable for comment when the report was released Wednesday afternoon by the county. He has blamed his troubles on the fact that his opponent in the sheriff's race was Charles Senken, the brother of the current County Commission chairman, Lee Senken.
The friction between Bryner and the commissioners began last year when he rehired a dispatcher they had fired. The county obtained an injunction to prevent the dispatcher from working. The sheriff later fired another dispatcher who was then rehired by the County Commission following a grievance hearing.
The audit team included Clyde Palmer, director of Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training; Bob Limb, Box Elder County sheriff; and Sharon Esplin, a special investigator for the Utah attorney general's office. They spent three days in Price in early March conducting interviews and investigating specific allegations.
Their report outlined 22 allegations and made recommendations for dealing with each of them. Among the recommendations made were: Centralizing dispatch services for the entire county; allowing the sheriff to participate in the county budgeting process; reorganizing the sheriff's office to clarify authority and responsibility; and using mediators to solve pending disputes regarding former employees.
The report said there has been a lack of communication and a highly adversarial relationship between the sheriff, the County Commission and the county attorney. The commissioners viewed certain conditions and conduct on the part of the sheriff as inappropriate and have reacted in a way that the sheriff saw as interference with his department, the report said.
Because of this lack of communication, there has been no means to settle disputes in a logical and rational manner, the report said. Instead, the animosities created have festered to the point that the report expressed serious doubts about whether the sheriff's office under its current administration can ever be rehabilitated in the eyes of the citizens it is sworn to protect.
The audit team found the sheriff has ignored seniority in promotions, job assignments, vacation requests and equipment assignments. "Life has become miserable," the report said, for several people employed by the office because of shift changes, job assignments, stress, distrust and uncertainty with supervisory responsibilities.
The report recommended the sheriff use traditional methods of making job assignments. A policy statement should be prepared and followed consistently by the sheriff to avoid the perception of favoritism and to give employees direction.
The report also said there is evidence the sheriff intentionally failed to provide adequate dispatch on Oct. 4, 1987, as a means of "teaching the County Commission a lesson" because the commission had failed to allow the sheriff to use a sufficient number of dispatchers.
"Sheriff Bryner should not set himself up to teach lessons at the expense of citizen welfare and should make every effort to provide adequate dispatch coverage to the county with resources available to him," the report said.
Regarding an allegation made by the sheriff that his department is understaffed, the audit team found that Bryner has a total of 12 officers, a decrease of three from the previous administration, basically through attrition.
The audit committee believes the level of police service in Carbon County is adequate with 12 officers. But the committee questioned the ability of the sheriff to provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage in both dispatch and jail with only five dispatchers and five jailers and recommended use of part-time people.
On several occasions, the sheriff initiated investigations in Price without first informing the Price City Police Department, a practice that the report said should be stopped. The practice of not notifying other agencies is not only discourteous and unprofessional, it is potentially dangerous, especially if undercover work is involved.
The conclusion was that Bryner's situation of suddenly finding himself in charge of a police operation without any formal credentials is not unusual, but he has been unwilling to accept the fact that he has managerial deficiencies that are undermining the integrity of his department. The audit recommended that everyone involved put aside their differences and work together for the benefit of the community.