Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 14, 2013

Attorney: Grand Traverse deputy to fight his termination

BY ART BUKOWSKI
abukowski@record-eagle.com

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A fired Grand Traverse sheriff’s deputy will fight his termination, his attorney said.

Sheriff Tom Bensley fired Ryan Salisbury on Wednesday. The move came about a month after Salisbury, a roughly 10-year veteran of the department, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace for his role in a Dec. 6 incident at Union Street Station in Traverse City.

Salisbury’s attorney, Craig Elhart, said Salisbury already contacted a union attorney for arbitration.

“He’s been punished enough by the courts,” Elhart said. “I think his employer has gone way overboard in reaction to what he did.”

Salisbury, 35, declined comment through Elhart.

He initially was charged with disturbing the peace and a misdemeanor count of domestic violence, but the latter charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal. A judge sentenced him to one year of probation, and his conviction will be vacated if he successfully completes that probation.

Bensley said the decision to fire Salisbury came after administrators met with Salisbury and reviewed the department’s rules.

“Because of Deputy Salisbury’s actions .... which were in violation of general orders of the sheriff’s office, we feel that the separation from employment was appropriate,” he said in a statement.

When reached for comment by a Record-Eagle reporter, Bensley declined additional comment about his firing decision or the upcoming arbitration process. The entire situation took a toll on the department, he said.

“Unfortunately, these situations do occasionally occur,” he said. “It does suck a lot of energy out of the staff at the sheriff’s office.”

Salisbury’s girlfriend was at the bar with a few others when Salisbury came in. Authorities said Salisbury struck his girlfriend on the neck with his elbow and made a punching motion toward her face, and he also had physical contact with a man sitting near Salisbury’s girlfriend.

Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop, who handled the case as a special prosecutor, said the man had been sending Salisbury’s girlfriend texts over a period of time.

In late 2011, Leelanau County assistant prosecutor Doug Donaldson declined to issue a domestic violence charge against Salisbury for an alleged assault on a different woman in Grand Traverse County. That woman, Salisbury’s then-wife, asked Donaldson not to charge.