The San Juan County Sheriff and two of his deputies will remain on the job for now. All three were charged Friday with criminal misconduct and obstructing an investigation.
The San Juan County Commission said Monday they will not place Sheriff Rick Eldredge, Chief Deputy Alan Freestone and Deputy Rob Wilcox on administrative leave. The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed charges against all three county employees in district court last week. But San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams said removing three employees from an office of 11 could pose a safety risk to the community.
“We had an obligation to preserve the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the county. And, in order to do that, we needed to keep these folks on the payroll,” Adams said.
According to charging documents, Sheriff Eldredge allegedly pointed an unloaded assault rifle at a Sheriff’s Office employee. He’d had a previous altercation with the employee and when the employee complained, Eldredge assigned Chief Deputy Freestone to investigate. The document alleges Freestone did not conduct a proper investigation and he and Wilcox provided false information to the Utah Attorney General’s office during its investigation.
Cameron Noel is sheriff of Beaver County and president of the Utah Sheriff’s Association. He agrees with the commission’s decision-here he speaks specifically about Eldredge.
“He is an elected official. He is a citizen of his community and he has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty,” Noel said.
This makes two Utah Sheriff’s who’ve been charged with a crime in two weeks. In Daggett County five jail employees, including the Sheriff are facing charges for mistreating inmates.