A recall petition has been filed with the Dundy County Clerk. Former Dundy County Commissioner Jerry Fries filed the petition against current Sheriff Clinton J. Smith. The petition was filed on Friday afternoon.
Fries made his statement of why Smith should be recalled, and Smith will have 20 days to respond to Fries’ statement. Fries will need to obtain 253 signatures from registered voters to move the recall forward to a vote. People can help Fries circulate the pettition.
If Fries obtains the needed signatures and the community votes to recall Smith, the Dundy County Commissioners would then be in a position to advertise, take applications, and hire a replacement.
Fries’ recall petition comes after a June 5, 2023, letter from the Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. The letter is linked to this story for the public to read.
In the letter, it states that Smith was never employed in Colorado as a Law Enforcement Officer, and based on the background investigation conducted, Smith was denied admission into the Basic Training Program. In summary of, the background report, it says that Smith demonstrates a pattern of misrepresentation. The areas in which inconsistencies were discovered are in work history, criminal and traffic history, and disciplinary actions, including allegations of sexual harassment and separations of employment by previous law enforcement/criminal justice agencies.
The letter states that Smith demonstrated “a lack of honesty and truthfulness as you admitted during interviews with Mr. Leonard (background investigator) that the information submitted was not correct.”
In addition to the letter denying Smith’s Admission to Basic Certification Training, another letter was received by the Dundy County Commissioners in April that state Sheriff Smith did not successfully complete the PRET (Physical readiness entrance test). He scored a 13%.
According to Nebraska State Statute, Smith must obtain a Nebraska Certification within eight months of taking office. The eight months will be up on September 5, 2023. The statute states that “Unless a sheriff is able to show good cause for not complying or obtains a waiver of the training requirements from the council, any sheriff who violates this will be punished by a fine of equal to the sheriff’s monthly salary, each month the sheriff is in violation will constitute as a separate offense.
According to County Attorney Arlan Wine, Smith has asked the Police Standards Advisory Council for a waiver of the Law Enforcement Training Course. Wine said that there are times when a person’s sources of knowledge and skill would make this course moot. For example, they may have had many years of experience as a law enforcement officer, or they may have been to law school and are an attorney. Wine says the county is entering a grey area, “no one has ever gone through this, it’s something that’s happened to very few, and they usually just resign.”
Wine says Smith will be fined the amount of the salary, and at that point, Smith would be working for no cash, but he thought Smith’s benefits like insurance would still be collectible. Wine says Smith could take the stance of an administrative sheriff where he oversees the officers, but after the eight months is up, and he is not certified or has not received a waiver, Smith can no longer act as an officer.
Wine expressed concerns about Smith if he continues to stay in office. He is concerned because the letter on Smith’s background calls into question his honesty. “If I possess facts that reflect negatively on an officer’s character, then I have to reveal that to the other side and tell the defense in the case that there is a problem with the officer. It can really hurt the case of the prosecution. ”
Smith was contacted Tuesday morning by the Benkelman Post. Smith says he has an appointment next month with the Commission on law enforcement regarding his appeal.” He had no comment about the recall because he had not looked at it.
Fries was contacted Tuesday morning and said he filed the petition “because the county needs certified law enforcement. The letter regarding Smith’s background check is astounding. It’s just got to be done.”