Linn County Sheriff plans to discipline around eight employees for harassment

The sign outside of the LInn County Sheriff's Office in Cedar Rapids (Josh Scheinblum/KCRG)
The sign outside of the LInn County Sheriff's Office in Cedar Rapids (Josh Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 6:27 PM CDT
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Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner announced plans to discipline around eight of his office's employees after alerting KCRG-TV9 of a recently-completed internal investigation of harassment claims in his department.

Gardner told the I9 investigative team he made the choice to go public with the investigation in the interest of transparency. He said his office has nothing to hide.

Gardner said that in late June a deputy who works in the jail filed a complaint that claimed co-workers harassed him for taking time off, under the Family Medical Leave Act, after the birth of his child.

The sheriff's office hired an outside attorney to investigate the deputies allegations of harassment. The investigation found there was harassment but that it did not break state or federal laws.

Gardner says around eight members of his staff will face disciplinary action ranging from warnings to suspensions in connection to what was uncovered during the investigation. He added that the investigation also revealed other inappropriate behavior and he will be requiring all staff, around 180 employees in all, to undergo harassment training.

"We will also be going into an education process with our employees as well in the future so they don't misunderstand when an employee takes off FMLA time, it's based on a federal law, a federal statue, and that person is entitled to it," Gardner said.

Gardner said the investigation found a "perfect storm" of staffing shortages also contributed to the issues that were found. The lack of staff evidently stressed out deputies that were already working overtime.

A 2017 I9 investigation found, between the 2015 and 2017 fiscal years alone, that overtime cost taxpayers nearly $5 million. After I9's investigation, Gardner was given approval by the Linn County Board of Supervisors to hire additional deputies. Gardner says since then, and since this incident, the new hires have alleviated that staffing shortage at the jail.

"That perfect storm situation that this originally existed to create this problem, or at least add to it, has been resolved, mostly, as far as the overtime is concerned," Gardner said.

The investigation into the Linn County Sheriff's office cost, so far, around $35,000. Providing harassment training to all members of the Linn County Sheriff's office will cost an additional $15,000, according to Gardner.