Burke County residents petition to remove sheriff

BOWBELLS Concerned residents of Burke County have submitted a petition to the North Dakota attorney general, asking the governor to remove their appointed sheriff.

The attorney general’s office confirmed receiving a package from Burke County. Spokeswoman Liz Brocker said the attorney general had not yet reviewed it.

The submission includes information that residents are asking the governor to review, along with a petition seeking removal of the sheriff. Residents are requesting the governor’s involvement because the matter cannot be handled at a county level. The county commission doesn’t have authority under state law to remove a sheriff.

Sheriff Michael Cude faces allegations of creating hostility in the office. Matters came to a head in early July when Cude dismissed a secretary on grounds she took unauthorized leave and disciplined a deputy for leaving sensitive records unattended. He fired another deputy, who is running against him for sheriff in the November election, for insubordination.

The commission appointed Cude on May 27 to replace the previous sheriff, who resigned to take a different position.

“There are very narrow guidelines to remove a sheriff, and I know that none of those guidelines fit the circumstances,” Cude said Friday. He called the controversy a political matter.

“It’s not going to deter me from doing my job and putting on a positive face and continuing to serve the people of Burke County,” he said.

The removal petition came about after a July 15 meeting that drew a number of county staff and members of the public who had questions about what was happening in the sheriff’s office.

The law allows for the governor to remove certain officials if the official is guilty of misconduct, malfeasance, crime in office, neglect of duty or habitual substance abuse or gross incompetency.

A petition against an official, filed with the attorney general, must be signed by at least 50 qualified voters of the county or 10 percent of the qualified county voters at the preceding general election for governor, whichever is least. The attorney general has 30 days to investigate and make a recommendation to the governor.

The governor then decides whether to dismiss the complaint or appoint a special commissioner to hold a hearing. The governor makes a decision regarding removal based on the hearing report. An official who is removed has the right to appeal in district court.

North Dakota governors have removed four sheriffs since June 1985. Before that time, no governor is believed to have used the authority since 1927, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not removed any public officials, dismissing a request in 2012 to remove the Stark County sheriff. He was asked to remove Pembina County’s state’s attorney in 2012 but the attorney resigned prior to a hearing.