WALLA WALLA -- The Walla Walla Commissioned Deputy Sheriff's Association has formally requested that Sgt. Bill White be taken off administrative leave and placed back on the active duty roster.
"The Association is outraged and strongly condemns the treatment of Sergeant Bill White," wrote Jamie B. Goldberg, an attorney for the association, in a letter delivered Friday to Sheriff John Turner.
White was placed on paid administrative leave in mid-June and according to the association has not been formally told why.
"(White) has been on leave for an excessive period of time for no apparent reason, and the Association believes that this protracted period of separation is baseless and without merit," the letter states.
Turner said Monday that White was informed of the allegations against him at the beginning of the investigation, adding the investigation is being conducted by the Benton County Sheriff's Department.
"All rules and laws have been complied with," Turner said, adding White is not the first Sheriff's Office employee to be placed on administrative leave since he took office.
"White is the fourth employee placed on administrative leave," Turner said. "Each administrative leave, including the one with White, has been for a just cause."
The primary reason for administrative investigations, according to Turner, are complaints from outside the Sheriff's Office, including other law enforcement agencies. Turner said the White investigation was prompted by a complaint from the Walla Walla Police Department.
Police Chief Scott Bieber said this morning he wasn't aware of any departmental complaint, but added it could have originated with an individual employee.
Turner also addressed rumors that White's bid for the sheriff's position, running against Turner, has prompted the action.
"Many people have accused me of being retaliatory," Turner said. "(The investigation) has everything to do with public service and performance. It has nothing to do with politics."
The Association's letter, however, states "White is subjected to intentional threatening treatment for some reason."
Goldberg also issued a press release Monday that expanded on the demand for White's immediate return to active duty, alleging the Sheriff's Office Administration has attempted to "try the matter in the court of public opinion with statements made to the Union-Bulletin and a local radio station."
Goldberg also stated the Association has raised concerns that the investigation being conducted by the Benton County Sheriff's Office could present a conflict of interest.
"The concern about this is that apparently, Sheriff Turner has a business relationship with Benton County Sheriff's Office employees," Goldberg stated in the press release, referencing Turner's involvement with Practical Edge Shooting, a Kennewick shooting school. Turner is listed as an instructor along with law enforcement officers from other agencies, including at least one from the Benton County Sheriff's Office.
Turner, however discounted the claim.
"I'm an independent contracted instructor," Turner said. "I'm not an owner. I haven't taught a class in months."
Turner also said the Benton County Sheriff's deputies who also teach classes are not involved in the White investigation.
Greg Tompkins, Walla Walla County Commission chairman said Monday the commissioners had not had enough time to review the letter from the Deputies' Association.
"The county commissioners have just been provided with the letter in question, and I'm not sure all of the commissioners have seen the letter yet due to their meetings schedule," Tompkins, said Monday.
White has not been available for comment on the investigation.
U-B reporter Andy Porter contributed to this story. Luke Hegdal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8326.
Letter on behalf of WWCDSA and Bill White to Sheriff John A. Turner