From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 35 - August 28, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Firings shock Sheriff’s Office

by Jonathan Van Dyke

What started out as a restructuring of the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) has resulted in a flurry of accusations against Sheriff Wayne “Bardy” Bardin.

“I decided a couple of weeks ago to reorganize the Sheriff’s Office,” Bardin said.

The reorganization included the termination of Undersheriff James Whinnery and Lieutenant Hayes Randol on Aug. 21, along with the reassignment of Lieutenant Detective Jeannie Whinnery to the juvenile division.

“[There is] no specific reason at all [for the terminations],” Bardin said. “I just felt I needed the people I could trust around me.”

Bardin said that he had discussed the idea with several other offices, and specifically the removal of the undersheriff position with them. Two captain positions will be formed in its place — one for both the north and south sides of the county. Each captain will be in charge of their own patrol unit and scheduling.

Some preliminary interviews have been conducted, but no official hirings have taken place. For the time being, Mike Peterson will be the acting undersheriff. Bardin hopes to have the new system in place by the end of September.

“A lot of people don’t like change,” Bardin said. “I thought the change was necessary. That change has been supported by the commission and other officials.”

On Friday, however, a group of former and current SCSO employees attended the Sublette County Commission’s meeting in order to file a public complaint and request an investigation of Bardin.

“This isn’t something taken lightly by any of us,” said Detective James Schmidt during the meeting.

The commissioners, with the counsel of the County Attorney’s office, told the group to file the complaint in writing to County Clerk Mary Lankford. Right before the agenda item, the commission, county attorney and Bardin were involved in a meeting in executive session.

Schmidt filed the complaint first thing Monday morning. Jeannie Whinnery, Hayes Randol, Lisa Randol, KC Lehr, Toby Terrell, Brian Sparks, James Whinnery and Nathen Gortemaker filed a document in support of the accusations made by Schmidt.

The complaint calls for a formal investigation by the State Attorney General’s office due to a possible conflict of interest by the County Attorney’s Office.

Deputy attorney Meredith Oakes Peterson is the wife of interim Undersheriff Mike Peterson.

Schmidt also contended conflicts arose from the fact that the County Attorney’s Office helped draft the termination papers or Whinnery and Randol and the office was “representing Sheriff Bardin’s interest in these employee matters.”

The County Attorney’s Office is sensitive to the possible conflicts it poses, County Attorney Lucky McMahon said.

“The County Attorney’s Office has contacted the Attorney General’s office for guidance in this matter and will be proceeding pursuant to their instructions,” she said.

McMahon also addressed concerns that her office worked in concert with the Sheriff’s Office with regard to the reorganization.

“We had no involvement with it whatsoever,” McMahon said. “We had no indication this was coming. We simply drafted two letters that had already been dictated in order to make them legally correct.”

In his letter, Schmidt outlines several cases of alleged misconduct involving Bardin that could result in the sheriff’s removal by the Sublette County Commission.

“I submit that Sheriff Wayne Bardin has repeatedly demonstrated a wanton and willful disregard in the discharge of his duties as Sheriff of Sublette County and the Oath of Office, by violating Wyoming State Statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Sublette County Sexual Harassment Policy, Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Policies and Procedures and the Code of Ethics for Law Enforcement,” Schmidt states in the letter.

The letter goes on to document several of these instances.

Schmidt’s letter accuses Bardin of “lewd verbal comments of a sexual nature…that were unwelcomed (sic), unasked for or rebuked by another employee” to Deputy Lisa Randol and three additional female employees. However, the allegations regarding the three additional employees “have not been confirmed at the time of this formal complaint.”

The letter also accuses Bardin of breaking state statute with the terminations of Whinnery and Randol, who were “discharged from employment and denied the opportunity for a hearing and appeal.”

A large portion of the complaint centered on a Dec. 11, 2005 incident involving Bardin, Peterson and Daniel Jensen. In the submitted documents, Jensen includes a letter of the events that transpired on that night.

“This incident was investigated and documented by SCSO Deputy Sergeant Daniel Jensen on this date and [the] report was altered to isolate Sheriff Bardin from arrest or prosecution of the charge,” Schmidt said in the letter.

According to Jensen, Peterson called him to investigate a traffic accident near the intersection of Highway 191 and Meadowlark Lane at 9 p.m. that night.

“Meadowlark Lane’s road conditions were ice and snow-covered,” Jensen said in his account.

It appeared as though the accident had occurredwith Bardin trying to turn out of Meadowlark.

“Peterson advised me that he did not think that Sheriff Bardin was intoxicated,” Jensen said in his account. Peterson advised Jensen that they could call another agency to investigate, but Jensen “told him that I would investigate the wreck.”

“Sheriff Bardin admitted to me that he had ingested three shots of an alcoholic beverage,” Jensen said in his account. “Sheriff Bardin advised me that he was headed toward Big Piney to go and see his mother when the crash occurred. In my opinion, using my training and experience, Sheriff Bardin was intoxicated. I also observed several prescribed medication bottles. I did have personal knowledge that Sheriff Bardin was the only person living at the residence.”

The account goes on to say that Peterson took Bardin back into Pinedale and that Jensen called for a tow truck.

“At the time, I felt that I was doing the right thing by not taking law enforcement action against Sheriff Bardin,” Jensen said in his account.

Jensen was a Patrol Sergeant at the time. He is no longer with the SCSO.

Schmidt also alluded to “additional accusations” that are unconfirmed as of the writing of the complaint.

Commission Chairman William Cramer declined to comment for this story. Messages were not returned by Schmidt, Peterson, Terrell or James and Jeannie Whinnery. Lisa Randol is no longer with the department, according to SCSO dispatch.

Bardin is in the process of retaining his own attorney, and said he would seek that attorney’s advice before making any further statements regarding any future investigation.

“I’m not going to comment on it at this time,” Bardin said.

Bardin was appointed to office in 2005 and he has been with the SCSO since 1992. He has previously admitted to being a recovering alcoholic.

“I’m going to hit [these allegations] head on, and we’ll deal with that when it comes,” Bardin added.

For now, he will continue to execute his new plans for the structure of the SCSO.

“I felt the reorganization was important for the citizens of Sublette County to get the best possible law enforcement they could have,” Bardin said.

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