Prue still considers stepping back from her duties

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(Host) A lawyer for Windham County Sheriff Sheila Prue says Prue is still considering a plan to step back from running her department.

An audit in April charged that Prue diverted sixty thousand dollars for personal use and left her department on the brink of insolvency.

The Vermont Sheriff’s Association is offering to step in and run the department while a criminal investigation is underway.

VPR’s Susan Keese has details.

(Keese) The proposal calls for Prue to remain as Windham County Sheriff and retain her $59,000-a-year base pay.

The Vermont Sheriff’s Association’s six-person executive board would handle the department’s daily operations. The arrangement would continue at least through November, when Prue’s is up for reelection.

LaMoille County Sheriff Roger Marcox presented the plan at a press conference in Newfane Thursday afternoon. Marcox is the Sheriff’s Association’s Vice President. He said he’d hoped to announce an agreement, but that Prue had changed her mind at the last minute.

(Marcox) “We would have been deputized as Windham County deputies. Sheriff Forrest who’s the sheriff from Bennington County would have been the day to day deputy in charge. And the reason that six of us were involved was to rotate time into the office, because we all have responsibilities in our respective counties. But basically our first task would have been to stabilize the department financially and to safeguard jobs.”

(Keese) But Bettina Buehler, Prue’s attorney, says the deal isn’t dead yet.

(Buehler) “The discussion although my client has participated only to a limited extent the overall concepts have been agreeable. The problem is obviously we have to figure out if somebody else is going to be operating a good portion of the sheriff’s department and my client is still going to assume responsibility and liability for all of their transactions there has to be some understanding about how that day-to-day management is going to occur.”

(Keese)Buehler says Prue had verbally negotiated aspects of the Sheriffs Association plan. But she hadn’t seen them in writing until the day before the press conference.

Buehler also says that Prue will be able to counter many of the audit’s charges.

The matter is currently in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department and Vermont’s attorney general, who has not yet said whether criminal charges will be filed.

An allegation relating to the department’s training policies is under investigation by the Vermont Criminal Training Council.

Newfane State Representative Richard Marek says the Windham County Legislative Delegation is also involved in the negotiations.

(Marek) “We thought that was important from the standpoint of stabilizing the department, restoring public faith in the department and permitting Sheriff Prue to proceed with responding in an orderly fashion to the audit report from the state auditor.”

(Keese) The only way a sheriff can be forced to step down is by popular vote or by impeachment by the legislature. Marek, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, says impeachment is unlikely at this point.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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