Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 27, 2012

Sheriff candidates push for litigation resolution


TRAVERSE CITY — Candidates in the Republican primary for Leelanau County sheriff long for a resolution to contentious, long-running litigation a handful of deputies filed against the sheriff's department.

Those deputies alleged current sheriff's department administrators secretly listened to employee phone conversations and then retaliated against those who criticized the practice. The county denies wrongdoing, but the lawsuit and related legal fees have lingered since 2009.

"Right now, the only ones winning are the lawyers," sheriff's candidate Mike Borkovich said.

Borkovich, Mark Walter and Del Moore face off Aug. 7 in the Republican contest. No Democrats filed for the position, meaning the winner of the Republican primary will be the county's next top law enforcement officer, barring a write-in candidate for the general election.

Walter said the county needs to make a decision on the lawsuit and do it soon.

"The county board needs to decide if they are going to settle this or continue to fight," Walter said. "If they are going to settle it, they should get it done. It's going to be costly either way."

Moore said he's received two subpoena notices on the matter.

"This is an inherited issue," Moore said, adding "if it's not resolved, the courts will settle it."

Borkovich said retiring Sheriff Michael Oltersdorf did a good job and hired excellent people to work at the department. Borkovich wants to improve the department's community relations and increase training for deputies. Such steps would boost morale, he said.

Moore wants to implement a community policing model and deploy deputies to two or three substations in the county. The move would allow residents to know their deputies better and improve response times, he said. Moore also wants to place school resource officers in schools.

"People want to interact with their officers and know them by name," Moore said, adding his substation idea could be implemented at no cost to the county.

Walter said the sheriff's department needs more leadership in budgeting. He wants to significantly cut overtime by adjusting officer schedules. County records show the jail alone paid out $153,577 in overtime from 2009 to 2011.

"We need to address ... the overtime and do some tweaking to the schedule," he said.