BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today ordered the reinstatement of McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger to the position of sheriff, as recommended by Special Commissioner Karen Klein.
On Nov. 23, 2016, then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple placed Schwartzenberger on interim suspension upon the recommendation of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem after the McKenzie County Commission voted in favor of a petition for removal. Klein found no substantiated ground for removal of Schwartzenberger and recommended he be returned to the elected office of sheriff.
Schwartzenberger’s reinstatement is effective immediately.
The governor's order can be viewed here, and the body text is below.
ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR REMOVAL
Upon reviewing the file, the transcript from the hearing on July 18-19, 2017, and the report, findings and recommendation issued by Special Commissioner Karen Klein, it is apparent this removal proceeding has divided McKenzie County. The Special Commissioner’s report identifies various “power struggles” between the McKenzie County Commission and the Sheriff, demonstrated, as an example, by the Commission’s attempt to bring the Sheriff’s Department in line with other county offices, and the Sheriff’s desire to operate autonomously.
Special Commissioner Klein noted evidence of heavy-handedness, crude and unprofessional behavior, and non-collaborative actions by Sheriff Schwartzenberger. And while these actions may not manifest optimal outcomes or performance, Commissioner Klein further concluded that none of these actions singularly, or in total, meet the high burden of proof threshold required for removal of a duly elected official from office.
Therefore, reinstatement of Sheriff Schwartzenberger presents a crossroads for McKenzie County. Either it will be an opportunity for a fresh start, or a continuation of local conflict, angst and contention.
Understandably, a fresh start will be difficult and will require introspection, humility and forgiveness by many parties. As elected officials, each Commission member and the Sheriff must remember the fundamental purpose and responsibilities inherent in their respective positions – to serve and protect the citizens and resources of McKenzie County.
Sheriff Schwartzenberger’s reinstatement and return to his elected position is his opportunity to lead with humility, integrity and respect -- and to treat every employee, every elected official and every citizen with fairness.
If these opportunities are acknowledged, appreciated and pursued with empathy and determination, McKenzie County will become a stronger and more vibrant community in which to work, live and prosper.
NOW, THEREFORE, by the power vested in the Governor pursuant to Article V, North Dakota Constitution and Chapters 44-11 and 54-07, North Dakota Century Code, the Special Commissioner’s report and recommendation is adopted in its entirety.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
- The Complaint for Removal is hereby dismissed;
- The suspension of Gary Schwartzenberger from the position of McKenzie County Sheriff is terminated;
- Gary Schwartzenberger is reinstated to the position of McKenzie County Sheriff, to resume the duties of the office to which he was elected.