November 26, 2022

Supervisors split on chief deputy decision

After some delay from his initial announcement Dec. 28, Sheriff Mark Shepherd asked the Union County Board of Supervisors to approve his choice of Chris Knouse as chief deputy Monday during its weekly meeting in the Union County Courthouse.

Shepherd said the delay was due to needing time to complete background checks.

Supervisors Ron Riley and Dennis Brown voted to approve Knouse; supervisor Rick Friday voted no.

Friday explained his vote in a follow-up phone call, saying he didn’t feel the board had enough information to make a decision. During the meeting, Friday had said some of the parties disagreed on how the approval of a chief deputy was to take place.

“We have learned a lot about the process of appointment, but, still in my opinion, we know little about the individual that you (Shepherd) wanted to appoint,” Friday said. “We have a name, but we don’t have any written references ... or past work history.”

Shepherd said because it not a civil service position, the supervisors’ role was to approve the position of chief deputy.

“There’s differing opinions on whether they approve the person or not. ... I’ll bear that burden. That burden falls on me,” Shepherd said. “That’s what I’m elected to do. ... I think we’ve got more than a good candidate. I think we’ve got the best I could have got.”

Shepherd said Knouse has 36 years of law enforcement experience, “many of those years in supervisory positions,” and is certified as an instructor in rifle, handguns, shot gun, defense tactics among others. Knouse has been the police chief in Granger since Oct. 2020. He is bonded and certified and in good standing with the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

In his recommendation, Shepherd did not mention Knouse’s 2012 charges of non-felonious misconduct while in office, fifth-degree theft and pistol or revolver acquisition without a permit for the transfer of a firearm to another person without the appropriate paperwork. According to stories in the Jan. 25, 2102 and April 9, 2013 Cedar Rapids Gazette, Knouse entered an Alford plea — a guilty plea with no admission of wrong doing — to the non-felonious misconduct charge and received a deferred judgement. The other charges were dropped. According to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy website, Knouse received a one year decertification from ILEA.

Shepherd did not return phone calls after the meeting.

When asked why he did not bring up the issue, Friday said it had been brought to his attention but he did not look deeper into it and therefore did not want to comment on the situation.

In a phone call, Tuesday morning, Riley said he knew about the incident and wanted to support the sheriff.

“It was one incident eight years ago and it was explained to me to my satisfaction,” Riley said. “I’m going to back my sheriff with his recommendation.”

In his motion to approve the recommendation, Brown spoke of the rationale behind his decision to support the recommendation.

“The change-over from one sheriff to another has not gone as smoothly as many of us had hoped,” he said. “We ... have wrestled with our consciences on how to best manage this transition. ... I believe in second chances, Mark is our sheriff. The responsibilities of the office are his. He deserves the chance to put his team together.”

Further background checks, finger printing, Department of Criminal Investigation and FBI checks and psycological testing, must be submitted to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academey for Knouse, but Shepherd said the ILEA allows time for those to be received after the individual has started working.

Friday said regardless of his no vote, Shepherd has his full support as sheriff.

The Union County Board of Supervisors meets weekly 9 a.m. Monday at the Union County Courthouse, 300 N. Pine St. The supervisors are still meeting in person at this time, but the public is encouraged to submit comments for public forum by mail, email or telephone to help limit the gathering to 10 participants.

REGINA SMITH

Reporter, columnist, teacher, children's book author, book store owner - Regina Smith has a wide range of experience in writing and education. She combines those interests and experiences to cover city and county government and human interest stories as well as writing a biweekly column in her home town of Creston, Iowa.