Leelanau County Sheriff Michael Oltersdorf’s abuse of his position and the employees that work for him are legendary. His narcissistic personality earned him the dubious distinction as POAM’s only back-to-back winner of its “Horse’s Ass Award” for Michigan’s worst police administrator.
As many POAM members know, Oltersdorf and Leelanau County are being sued in federal court by five deputies who claim the Sheriff violated their civil rights by recording and listening to private telephone conversations they made in the County’s Law Enforcement Center during working hours. The suit also points out that their rights to free speech and to engage in protected union activity were violated, and that the Sheriff retaliated against them by terminating three of the deputies. Since that time, one of the deputies has prevailed in grievance arbitration, while another prevailed in a Veteran’s Preference Act hearing conducted by the County Prosecutor. In both cases, the County was ordered to make the employees whole, including back pay and immediate return to work. Oltersdorf has refused and the County is appealing.
In late August, 2010, an independent “Blue Ribbon Panel” of attorneys who were not otherwise involved in the case, recommended to the County that they settle the federal lawsuit with a 1.2 million dollar award. In most “case evaluations,” the party that rejects the panel’s recommendations usually ends up paying attorney fees for the entire case if they lose. The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners, by a vote of 6-0, rejected the settlement plan, risking hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and over a million if the case goes to trial. It appears that the County is listening to the people who stand to gain the most from the extending of litigation, their own attorneys!
The grievance arbitration and Veteran’s Preference Act hearing once again spotlighted the incompetence and paranoia of Sheriff Michael Oltersdorf and his Undersheriff Wooters. Those findings are now a matter of public record and hopefully the citizens of Leelanau County will now demand that Oltersdorf be put out to pasture or sent to the glue factory. If any further proof is necessary to convince anyone that the Sheriff is delusional, think about the following. Oltersdorf recently posted an announcement on the Michigan Sheriff’s Association website pitching an upcoming training seminar he is hosting called “Behind the Walls”. In his description, Oltersdorf says that due to the decay of ethics, values, morals and criminal conduct from correctional officers, he felt a need to remind his employees why they accepted the job and swore an oath of office. Oltersdorf goes on to say, “..when some of their conduct becomes highly publicized, it is an embarrassment to our agencies, and not in the best interest of the public we serve. The training is designed to make CO’s take notice of management’s expectations and remind them of their obligations.”
This is not a bad joke. Sheriff Oltersdorf is actually hosting a seminar on ethics! Now that is a crime!