Sheriff’s race heats up in Jefferson

Joe Nole

Joe Nole

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Sheriff’s Detective Joe Nole is running in the Nov. 6 general election against the man who demoted him from undersheriff — his boss, Sheriff Dave Stanko.

Nole and Stanko are among the 14 candidates who have registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission to run in the election as the week-long filing period for Jefferson County positions approaches Monday.

As of Friday, county offices for which candidates have registered are four-year terms for sheriff, commissioner, auditor, assessor, clerk, prosecuting attorney, treasurer, district court, and a six-year term for Public Utility District 1, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Nole, with the sheriff’s department for more than two decades, was made acting sheriff in 2014 when Tony Hernandez resigned to become police chief in Milton.

Stanko appointed Nole undersheriff after Stanko was elected in 2014.

Stanko demoted him to detective and appointed Art Frank undersheriff in 2017.

Dave Stanko

Dave Stanko

Nole said he’s been asked to run by members of the public, law enforcement officers and people in county government.

“The morale in the office is probably the lowest I’ve seen it since I’ve worked here,” said Nole, who filed as a Democrat because he’s “always been a Democrat.”

Nole blamed the “leadership” in the department for the morale problem.

“A lot of people know what’s going on.”

He said a sign of that problem was the case of Former Capt. Mike Stringer, who retired after filing a complaint with the county in 2017 alleging Stanko improperly demoted Stringer and another captain, improperly spent federal Homeland Security funds and used offensive, vulgar language.

“People in the community have had enough of it,” he said.

“One of the main things I will do is get back to doing the law enforcement and not focus so much on how we look to the community.”

Stanko said he was exonerated in an investigation of Stringer’s complaint and has kept promises he made in 2013, including forming a citizens’ advisory committee.

The investigator determined Stanko’s behavior did not constitute unlawful discrimination and were not prohibited by county policy, although alleged remarks by Stanko indicated the “conduct — if it occurred — seems out of place in today’s professional law enforcement working environment.”

“I haven’t changed my behavior,” Stanko said, although he has stopped using his middle finger as a gesture of what he told the investigator was part of “fraternal law enforcement bantering.”

Stanko, who filed as “none” under the party designation for the partisan position, said he is an independent candidate and declined to say who he voted for president in the 2016 election.

“I don’t believe in partisan politics,” he said.

He challenged Nole’s assertion about the mood among the Sheriff’s Department staff.

“The morale, from my perspective, is very good, thank you,” Stanko said.

Behavior in the sheriff’s office has changed “to a certain degree,” Nole said.

“The stuff that was going on that we saw, we’re not seeing that as much anymore,” Nole said.

The following candidates have registered for county offices on the Nov. 6 general election ballot:

County commissioner, District 3, partisan: Gregory Brotherton, Democrat, $3,661 raised in contributions; Jon S. Cooke, Republican, $1,034 raised in contributions; Ryan T. McAllister, Democrat, $7,976 raised in contributions.

County sheriff, partisan: Nole, Democrat, $5,155 raised in contributions; Stanko, “None” party affiliation.

County auditor, partisan: Rose Ann Carroll, Democrat, $600 raised in contributions.

County assessor, partisan: Jeffrey S. Chapman, Democrat.

County clerk, partisan: Ruthann Gordon, Democrat.

County prosecuting attorney, partisan: Michael E. Haas, Democrat, $600 raised in contributions; James M. Kennedy, Democrat, $4,104 raised in contributions.

District Court judge, nonpartisan: Noah P. Harrison, $4.,075 raised in contributions; Mindy L. Walter, $887 raised in contributions

Jefferson Public Utility District 1 commissioner: Thomas A. Brotherton; Daniel S. Toepper, $370 raised in contributions

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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