Deputy Mike Morrison challenging Sheriff Brian Burnett in election for Chelan County Sheriff seat

WENATCHEE - Current Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett is coveting his seat for a fourth term. With $30,350.31 already spent for his campaign, signs all over Chelan County, and seemingly no opponent running against him, Burnett was confident that he would win. However, a last-minute campaign filing from Deputy Mike Morrison just made the election more captivating.

Sheriff Brian Burnett has served as Chelan County’s Sheriff since 2014 and has worked in law enforcement since 1997. He has worked as a School Resource Officer (SRO) for the Lake Chelan School District, as Custody Deputy for the Chelan County Regional Jail, and was the City of Chelan Sergeant Liaison between the Sheriff’s Office and the City of Chelan.

For work, he is the Chair for Chelan County Regional Drug Task Force, on the Mass Shooting Committee Work Group, Secretary and Treasurer for (WSSA) Washington, and was formerly the President of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Burnett is involved in multiple community engagements, acting as Interim Chair for the North Central Washington Chaplain Foundation, a board member for Family Lines, involved with Royal Family Kids and Wenatchee Camp #207, and is a member of Grace City Church. He is running as a Republican candidate.

Key Issues that Burnett wishes to continue focusing on is the continuation of the new Behavioral Health Unit, along with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ (WASP) con-tinued work on combating officer-involved suicides.

“Many staff and the first responders from all over the state of Washington have dealt with PTSD from accumulated stress and trauma. We give our personnel the resources and things to fight that, to put things in their hands so they minimize and fight the stress along the way, so you don’t have that acumen to build up. That they can manage that stress and not end up with a mental health crisis of their own.”

Burnett also wants to focus on the fentanyl crisis that has escalated in the last few years, while also working on the increase of crime, which he believes is due to the state’s recent passing of House Bill 1054, a new law that limits police vehicle pursuits unless they give reasonable cause.

During Burnett’s three terms in office, Burnett has had two harassment cases brought against the Sheriff’s office. The first civil suit was issued by former Deputy Jennifer Tyler, who alleged that the Sheriff’s office fired her in retaliation for testifying against her former employer–she was awarded $500,000 from that civil suit and later lost against Burnett in the 2018 Sheriff’s election.

The second case involved former Sgt. Marcus “Mike” Harris, who also claimed that he was fired in retaliation and was awarded $425,000. When asked about these harassment cases, specifically with Harris’ case, Burnett said the following: “We stay up on the best standard practices for training as things come through. We’re actually working towards accreditation with WASP right now. But as far as if you go back and look at the history, and this [is] year 12 of [me] being elected sheriff, I’ve hired 40, probably close to 50, staff during that time. Outside of people not making probation or not passing their field training program, I’ve only terminated two people. I don’t think there’s a history of harassment there. I think in most private businesses, you would see a much larger number of terminations, and in those termination cases, we have multiple advisors and attorneys, from County Administrator to County HR, to the County Attorney, to Washington State County Risk Pool Attorneys, those are people that all look at the cases [on] all of the internal investigations, they look at all of the facts and circum-stances. They weigh in on recommendations on where to move forward. We don’t ter-minate people just by the seat of our pants and go around and harass people. People have the ability to make al-legations and say anything they want out on their own place on social media, in their own private interviews, where the county is bound where we can’t comment on it. All we can do is continue to do what we do and know that we know what the truth is, regardless of what anybody else says. So, if you want to come back and interview the people that actually work here that know the facts, I think that’s the testament to what we do, but we can never completely battle what people go out and talk and say false things about the sheriff’s office or my admin-istration.”

Deputy Mike Morrison

Deputy Mike Morrison is the President of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association Union. He is the School Resource Officer (SRO) for Cascade School District and is also the Assistant Coach for Cascade High School’s Track and Field team. He has been with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office since March of 2014, transferring from the Omak Police Department and was a former SWAT team member for Okanogan County.

He is currently on the Search and Rescue team, the High Angle Rope Rescue Team, an Emergency Vehicle Operations and Control (EVOC) Instructor, a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) Instructor and a Field Training Officer (FTO) for new deputies.

In his spare time, is also a member of Grace City Church and like Burnett, is running as a Republican candidate.Morrison’s main motivation for his election campaign is to combat the in-house bullying he has seen within the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office. He describes a 50/50 split between the department as described in a recent culture survey.

“We’ve tried to come up with solutions, but it just seems like the problems are being ignored and that’s not going to be very effective. I mean, a house divided cannot stand and if we don’t trust one another, it’s going to be very difficult for the community to trust us.”

He also illustrates prob-lems with the department un-der-delivering services that they were funded to do, spe-cifically with the Traffic En-forcement Unit that is funded by Chelan County Roads.

“We have continuously missed the mark on what the county roads expects out of us and it’s not because the deputies that are working in that field are not proactive or motivated, but when it first started, you had two deputies that were being funded that weren’t even working the road, they had been reassigned out to training. That’s not what the funds were for,” Morrison explained. “You’re asking the deputies and the other personnel that are left to take up slack for those other people and that’s not realistic.”

 Regarding the two harass-ment suits that were filed against the department, Mor-rison felt that those instances were due in part to poor man-agement on misconduct pro-cedure, leading to a severe loss in taxpayer dollars from civil suit payouts.

“Clearly, we’ve jumped ahead of ourselves, and we terminated and/or disciplined people prematurely, and you’re looking at $500,000+ with Jennifer Tyler and $425,000 here recently with Sergeant Mike Harris. That’s a lot of money taxpayers could have had back [with the department] providing services.”

Although Morrison is in the awkward spot of running against his current employer, he does illustrate his respect for Burnett and understands if Burnett may have lost sight of the bigger picture, later learning that Burnett was hoping to combat similar issues when running against incumbent Sheriff Mike Harum.

“We were making the same statements that there was a divide. There had been unlawful terminations, I believe that was Deputy [Dale] England at the time, it was getting his job back, if I recall correctly. It’s kind of strange to think that Brian is now allowing that same thing to happen that he was so against.”

Although there are many rumors that Morrison may face retaliation if he does not win the Sheriff’s seat – he later referenced how Jennifer Tyler was terminated shortly after running against Burnett in 2018 – he says that those concerns don’t deter him from running.

“Having friends and family in law enforcement, they said the same thing too, that ‘your agency has a reputation of being retaliatory and you could probably be facing the same.’ I certainly hope that’s not the case. I do believe that Brian is professional, I do believe that you can keep the campaign civil. And my resume and my background speak for itself.”

Some key issues Morrison hopes to focus on include the housing crisis within Chelan County, increase staffing within the Special Investiga-tion Unit, battling the opioid epidemic and escalated fen-tanyl usage, and decrease the rise in burglaries.

“It seems like we are having people come from outside of the counties to come here and commit crimes and we have to figure out a way to track them better.”

State primaries will be held on August 2. To learn more about Chelan County candidates running for the midterm elections of 2022, visit https://voter.votewa.gov/CandidateList.aspx?e=877.

How to register to vote

Applications for new voter registrations or updates by mail, over the phone, email or online must be received by the Chelan County Elections Office no later than July 25, 8 days before Election Day, August 2.

Beginning July 26, voters registering or updating their existing registration in time for the August 2 Primary Special Election will need to appear in-person no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day, August 2. Chelan County Elections Office is located at 350 Orondo Avenue, Level 3, in Wenatchee.

Register to vote at: https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx

Positions and who is running for them,

on the August 2 Primary Ballot are:

Chelan County Assessor: Deanna Walter; Chelan County Auditor: Skip Moore; Chelan County Clerk: Sandra Arechiga, Brandi Buck and Marty (Martin) Young; Chelan County Commissioner District 2: Anne Hessburg and Shon D. Smith; Chelan County Coroner: Wayne E. Harris; Chelan County Prosecuting Attorney: Robert W. Sealby; Chelan County Sheriff: Mike Morrison and Brian Burnett; and Chelan County Treasurer: David E. Griffiths.

 

 

 

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