Monday, October 03, 2022
80.0°F

Former GCSO officers file $10 million in claims against county

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | July 18, 2022 3:56 PM

EPHRATA — A pair of former Grant County Sheriff’s Office deputies are seeking $10 million in damages from Grant County, alleging officials with the GCSO — including former Sheriff Tom Jones — engaged in retaliatory conduct over an investigation of the sheriff’s brother, who was himself an undersheriff, that eventually prompted the deputies to resign last year.

In a tort claim filed with the Grant County Commission in late June, former Chief Deputy Darrik Gregg and former Chief Deputy Dustin Canfield are each seeking $5 million in damages from the county related to the department’s response to an investigation into allegations that Chief Deputy Ken Jones misused tax dollars by improperly reporting work hours.

A tort is a civil claim against a government agency for compensation for damages. It is not a lawsuit. However, if the parties do not settle, Canfield and Gregg could pursue the matter in court.

Grant County Commissioner Danny Stone said the county has referred the claim to their insurer, Ephrata-based Clear Risk Solutions, for evaluation.

“They will ascertain to see how that claim goes forward,” Stone said, adding the county does not comment on any pending claims or litigation.

An attorney with Wenatchee-based Lacy Kane and Kube, a law firm representing Canfield and Gregg in the claim, said he had no comment regarding the claim.

As reported by the Columbia Basin Herald in December 2021, Ken Jones allegedly told other deputies that he had made more than $50,000 working for Seattle’s Finest Security and Traffic Control. In the tort claim, while using GCSO vacation days in 2020, Canfield states he received complaints from subordinates about Ken Jones by May 2021 and took them to the sheriff.

Following an internal GCSO investigation that raised concerns about Ken Jones’ use of vacation days in 2020, a formal investigation by Wenatchee Police Department Capt. Edgar Reinfeld released at the end of 2021 concluded Ken Jones did not intend to defraud the GCSO and cleared him of three instances of wrongdoing, though Reinfeld sustained the allegations in three other instances.

As a result of bringing the matter to the sheriff, Canfield stated in the tort claim that both Tom Jones and then-Undersheriff Ryan Rectenwald — currently Grant County’s interim sheriff — intended to protect the sheriff’s brother and make the work environment difficult for both former chief deputies.

“The retaliatory conduct included, but is not limited to: heated, loud, vulgar and angry statements against Chief Deputies Canfield and Gregg; allegations questioning the ‘loyalty’ of Chief Deputies Canfield and Gregg; direction to Chief Deputies Canfield and Gregg to ‘quash any rumors’ and to ‘defend’ Ken Jones of the rumors and ‘circle the wagons’ to protect Ken Jones; closed-door meetings clearly excluding Chief Deputies Canfield and Gregg as a result of raising or opposing the serious concerns of apparent fraudulent conduct; instructions to Chief Deputies Canfield and Gregg to keep silent as to the apparent fraudulent conduct; and increasing intolerable tensions and distrust in the work environment as a direct result of the actions and inactions of Sheriff Tom Jones, Undersheriff Rectenwald and the Sheriff’s brother Chief Deputy Ken Jones,” the tort claim states.

Canfield resigned from the GCSO on Sept. 20, 2021, and Gregg resigned a little less than a month later on Oct. 18, 2021.

In the tort claim, both Canfield and Gregg say the environment created in the GCSO due to the investigation into Ken Jones’s conduct and the response from the sheriff and undersheriff negatively affected the quality of law enforcement in Grant County.

Both former deputies are claiming the conditions under which they resigned constitute wrongful discharge under state law, and are also claiming protection under whistleblower statutes.

In the tort filing, both Canfield and Gregg also said they are planning on pursuing legal action against both Tom Jones and Ken Jones as well as Rectenwald, noting that all three individuals interfered in bad faith that caused damages to both former deputies.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

Recent Headlines