PORT LUDLOW — Sheriff David Stanko and challenger Joe Nole, a detective working for him, sparred over office management at a candidate forum.
The forum at the Beach Club on Thursday night was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County and the American Association of University Women of Port Townsend.
The two will face off in the Nov. 6 general election. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Wednesday.
Stanko,70, once a Democrat who filed for this eleciton with no party preference, mentioned three times that he demoted Nole from the undersheriff position.
“We had management dysfunction and neglect for the last several years,” Stanko said. “My opponent, who I demoted, was not a manager. He was demoted because he could not multi-task, stay organized. In fact, his evaluations going back ten years are available through public records.”
ole, 62, countered by saying that current management practices need to change.
“I’ve never seen the morale so low at the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. ”There are a lot of deputies here tonight. Anyone who’s been following social media knows that things are not going well.
“I’ll lead by example.”
Stanko — who had promoted Nole, who had been serving as interim sheriff, from chief criminal deputy to undersheriff after he was elected in 2014 — said he now has an excellent management team.
“When I have a person that I give direction to, it is my expectation that that direction is carried out… With Mr. Nole, that’s the reason why he’s no longer Number 2.”
Said Nole: “The only people he’s fired are those who he’s hired. It’s not like he came in and got rid of a whole bunch of people at the sheriff’s office that were bad.
“He paints this picture of how he’s a change agent who comes in and gets rid of all of these people and disciplines everybody.
Nole said that Stanko “demoted me and took two captains and made them sergeants for the sake of the command. He’s disciplined two people in the four years he’s been there, at least on the patrol side. One resulted in a lawsuit over public records requests and the other one was part of a lawsuit.”
Nole pointed out that evaluations on Stanko’s prior work are missing.
Stanko had retired as a lieutenant from the police department in Fullerton, Calif., in 2004. The department’s policy was to shred personnel records after five years, the Peninsula Daily News was told.
The two disagreed on accepting grants from the federal Homeland Security’s Operation Stonegarden Program.
Stanko said the program benefits the county by paying for additional patrols.
“It is for patrolling our marinas and our airports for identifying drug trafficking, human trafficking, and terror trafficking,” Stanko said. “That’s what the grant is for. It enhances our patrols out there. It benefits the community and is a great partnership with Homeland Security.”
Nole said he applied for the grant three years in a row, instructed to do so by Stanko, and that it was something he did not agree with.
“When elected, I will do away with the Stonegarden grant. We don’t need it.”
“The Stonegarden grant is to assist the border patrol in their mission,” Nole said. “It is true that we get another deputy on the road they pay for eight hours a few times a month to patrol areas that the Border Patrol picks out. We get some equipment and it has to be used for assisting Border Patrol.
“I don’t agree with it and I don’t think it’s right. I don’t know what to do about the problem with immigration and undocumented immigrants, but I don’t think this is right.”
An audience question referred to a claim that the evidence room at sheriff’s office had not been inventoried for many years. Nole and Stanko disagreed on the facts.
“Mr. Nole was in charge of the evidence room,” Stanko said. “It wasn’t inventoried for numerous years. Now we have it inventoried. If we would have had the audit during Mr. Nole’s time, we would have failed the audit.”
Nole said that wasn’t the case.
“There were numerous inventories of the evidence room over the past 20 years. Every year they were audited by the state and passed.
“I started working for the Sheriff’s Office in 1990 and I wasn’t in charge of the evidence room for 28 years.
“My opponent tried to do an inventory of the room; it fell through,” Nole said. “It was through me as undersheriff and the detectives who actually did the inventory.”
When questioned about morale, Stanko said morale is “intuitive.”
“A lot of people make their own morale,” Stanko said. “If I’ve disciplined you, if I demoted you, if I fired you, I wouldn’t expect your morale to be that high. I have an excellent staff.”
Nole said that personnel aren’t getting the direction, training and tools they need and that they lack “someone who listens to their concerns and someone who communicates back to them about what’s going on.
“We need a leader who leads by example,” Nole said. “I wouldn’t expect my deputies to do anything I wouldn’t do.
“We need a leader that we can look up to and trust. Someone we respect. I know that’s been lost with the current administration.
Both talked about their careers.
“I’ve been involved in three shootings in my career,” Stanko said. “I picked up a dead partner. I’ve had people try to kill me. I’ve shot people. It isn’t pleasant.”
Nole said his experience has been different.
“My opponent talks about shooting and being involved in shootings and that’s like a badge of honor or something,” Nole said. “I’ve never been involved in any shootings. I’ve haven’t shot at anybody.
“He got a medal of valor award for shooting at someone. I have a life saving award for saving someone who had a heart attack at the Sheriff’s Office. I’m proud to say that.”
Stanko said he has fulfilled all of his campaign promises as sheriff.
“This is a critical job, not a personality contest,” Stanko said. “It’s a job that we have to keep people accountable and responsible. It’s the business of policing. Every commitment I’ve made four years ago I have kept.”
Nole said he has support from former sheriffs, current deputies and others in law enforcement in the region.
“I can assure you those are not people who were demoted or disciplined,” he said. ”Those are people who know we need to go in a new direction and we need changes in the Sheriff’s Office. My 35 years of law enforcement in Jefferson County have prepared me to take this next step.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]