Former Ramsey sheriff accuses Jack Serier of morale drain of 'crisis proportions'

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Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher (right) has a lot of reasons why he doesn't think current Sheriff Jack Serier should be re-elected. Glen Stubbe and Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

The former sheriff of Ramsey County has a bone to pick with the current one, and there's no sign the drama will subside before the next election. 

Bob Fletcher, who served as sheriff for 16 years before losing the post to Matt Bostrom in 2010, has no complaints about his successor's six-year tenure. But in late 2016, when the Pioneer Press started asking questions about Bostrom's frequent absences -- eventually discovering he was spending a lot of time at England's Oxford University working toward a criminology degree instead of running his office -- Bostrom retired and appointed his chief deputy, Jack Serier, as substitute.

Fletcher, now the mayor of Vadnais Heights, says around that time he started getting calls from his former employees, complaining about staffing issues, forced overtime, and other workplace conditions. An unreleased study by consultant Matrix Solutions found that the county jail needed more than 30 employees to be comfortably staffed. So Fletcher started pressuring Serier to make the hires and put an end to the forced overtime.

Serier responded by searching department emails and phone records to find out who had leaked the study, Fletcher says.

That search uncovered an email that Sgt. Lugene Werner had sent Fletcher -- who is also the director of the Center for Somalia History Studies -- expressing her fears that an inmate had been radicalized. She sent the email after the inmate had been charged with terroristic threats, the criminal complaint against him detailing how he'd chased someone with a machete, which he called a "knife of God."

Fletcher says that nothing Werner told him wasn't already publicly available, but Serier disagreed. He suspended Werner and opened a investigation into her alleged violation of data privacy laws, which the Minneapolis city attorney's office ultimately declined to prosecute due to lack of evidence of criminal conduct.

This case and several others in the year since Serier has been in office moved Fletcher to send a blistering letter to the sheriff on Monday, blasting him for a "pattern of reckless abuse of power."

"You are at your worse when you try to catch people doing something wrong," Fletcher wrote. "You seem to get great satisfaction in 'shaming' people for their mistakes. I am not sure where you learned that management concept of 'shaming.' It is not in any of leadership books I have read."

'Many of your employees refer to you as a 'tyrant' and ask me frequently to 'please help to stop Jack’s terror.'"

Serier on Wednesday said that while he doesn't want to embarrass Werner, who still works for the office, he continues to believe she broke the law and had to be held accountable.

He acknowledged that some grievance hearings have been scheduled in the coming year, but that's to be expected for an organization with 450 employees.

Fletcher's letter, Serier says, is "just another one in a long line of, you know, things he sends me on a regular basis."

"I take no pleasure anytime we have to hold somebody accountable for their actions," he says. "The vast majority of my job is not doing that. It's leading a great organization that does a lot of phenomenal stuff across divisions."

Fletcher, along with a citizens group called St. Paul Strong, have also been dogging Serier recently to prove he lived in Ramsey County at the time he became sheriff.

Serier claimed he was living at his predecessor Bostrom's residence, but a letter from Bostrom later surfaced stating that his house was vacant when Serier took office. The Ramsey County Board has so far refused to investigate, and Fletcher has asked Serier to release cell phone location data that could show where he spent the majority of his time through the first half of 2017.

"I'm not addressing that thing as far as that's concerned," Serier said of the request. "It's just another in a long line of statements that frankly don't have merit, and I don't know what the motivation is, but it is what it is. I have to put up with it as a public official."

 


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