Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 17, 2013

Newsmakers: Bar incident led to deputy's job loss

EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.

TRAVERSE CITY — A sheriff’s deputy who lost his job after an altercation at a downtown saloon quietly, and happily, gave up his fight for reinstatement, his attorney said.

Ryan Salisbury, 36, of Traverse City, ended his night out on Dec. 6, 2011, with a short stay in jail. City police arrested the off-duty Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department deputy after witnesses said he assaulted his girlfriend in Union Street Station.

The incident led Sheriff Tom Bensley to terminate Salisbury in February after a court case and plea deal. Salisbury filed a grievance, but eventually withdrew it, said Undersheriff Nate Alger.

“Although (Salisbury) didn’t think he was rightfully terminated, he thinks the end was good for everybody,” said Craig Elhart, who represented him in the criminal case and grievance process.

Salisbury spent roughly 10 years with the sheriff’s department, including some work as a dog handler. That ended when authorities said Salisbury walked into the bar, saw his girlfriend sitting near another man, struck her on the neck with his elbow and made a punching motion toward her face. He also confronted and struck the other man.

Salisbury denied the allegations, but the case also brought to light a 2011 incident in which he was a suspect in another assault against a different woman, though Leelanau County authorities declined to press charges.

The sheriff’s department placed Salisbury on paid leave following his arrest. His guilty plea to disturbing the peace -- in exchange for authorities dropping a misdemeanor domestic violence charge -- led to his disciplinary termination.

In October, Salisbury completed his probation and effectively wiped his record clean; 86th District Court records state both charges he originally faced were dismissed. Elhart said Salisbury, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is “happily” working outside law enforcement after the resolution of the grievance process.

“I think he’s involved in oil and gas exploration right now,” he said.

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