New Grand Forks County sheriff restructures department
When Lt. Gary Grove was called to meet with incoming Grand Forks County Sheriff Andy Schneider to discuss his employment, Grove said he told Schneider he'd like to stay for another two or three years, or even until the end of Schneider's term.
But according to Grove, Schneider told him he "really needed to consider" retiring.
"I still love putting the uniform on. I've got a lot of knowledge," said Grove, 61. "It just would have been nice to go out on my own terms."
Shortly after their conversation, Grove said, Schneider called and said he could have a spot in warrants. Grove said he turned it down.
Schneider is restructuring the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office to eliminate two lieutenant positions, including one held by B.J. Maxson, who ran against Schneider in last month's election. Sheriffs are allowed to restructure departments to fit their management style, outgoing Sheriff Bob Rost told the Herald. However, employers cannot encourage employees to retire, said Ray Peeler, assistant legal counsel for coordination for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"I've worn a uniform with pride for years, and to have somebody that's been in law enforcement 13 years say what he said to me hurt very, very deeply," Grove said. "But that is part of how it works in sheriffs' departments across the state. Sometimes they weed out the old to have the new come in."
Along with eliminating the rank of lieutenant, Schneider plans to hire a chief deputy and captain. Schneider said he is structuring the department this way so there is a clear chain of command.
Schneider declined to further discuss details of Grove's departure.
"(Grove) was offered a position and he decided to retire instead of taking that position," Schneider said.
"Now that I'm an elected official, things need to be kept appropriate, but Gary Grove and anybody else is entitled to air any of their comments or opinions. That is fine.
"The Herald's involvement with the internal matters of the office and people's goals to demise my run at sheriff here aren't going to play a factor into what I'm doing. I do appreciate your time and what you're doing," Schneider said. "I'm looking forward to providing the best opportunities for the citizens of Grand Forks County with putting forth the best opportunities in the sheriff's office and I'm going to continue to do that."
With the elimination of the lieutenant position, Maxson said he has interviewed for a sergeant rank. He isn't sure if this means he takes a cut in pay, but said "it would be a pretty good assumption" that any position he is assigned will pay less than lieutenant.
Sheriff Rost, Grove and Sgt. Jon Simundson are all retiring. Rost, who was elected to the County Commission last month, said he is retiring at midnight Dec. 31. Simundson declined to comment for this article.
Rost said that instead of having a chief deputy, he picked two lieutenants, Maxson and Grove, when he first was elected in 2010.
"I just felt that I had two good people and I didn't want to pick one over the other," Rost said.
The sheriff before Rost, Dan Hill, had a chief deputy. Rost said he was Hill's chief deputy for a few years.
Many new sheriffs do things differently than their predecessors, Rost said.
"A new administrator gets to organize the department any way they see fit, or how they think it will best help the people out in Grand Forks County," Rost said.
In his time with Grand Forks County, which spanned 40 years, Grove said he worked for great sheriffs and loved going into work every day. He also said that Schneider, 38, is a hard worker and very energetic. Grove was named the North Dakota Peace Officer of the Year in 2004.
"It's been a good run, I wish I could have decided on my own when to retire," Grove said. "How it was presented to me was a real kick in the gut."