Self-suspended Sheriff Niles to retire

ENID, Okla. — Garfield County Board of Commissioners accepted a letter of retirement from Sheriff Jerry Niles during a regular meeting Monday.

"I am respectfully submitting my notice of retirement effective August 1, 2019, as Sheriff of Garfield County," Niles wrote in the letter dated May 28, 2019. "I wish to thank the citizens of Garfield County for the opportunity to serve and to lead an amazing and dedicated group of public servants. I am honored to have served the county, its communities and citizens and know the traditions of service will continue."

Sheriff Jerry Niles

The letter is file stamped 11:26 a.m. June 3, 2019, by County Clerk Lorie Legere.

Niles placed himself on paid suspension July 28, 2017, amid accusations of manslaughter in the 2016 death of a Garfield County Detention Facility inmate and nepotism and has remained under paid suspension since. As of May 31, 2019, Niles had received $120,394.72 in pay since his suspension, records show.

Niles, who was indicted in 2017 on a manslaughter charge in the death of inmate Anthony Dewayne Huff in June 2016, was not bound over for trial during a preliminary hearing held in August 2018. However, a former jail administrator and two jailers were sentenced in the case. 

Former Garfield County jail administrator Jennifer Shay Niles was sentenced to 55 hours in Alfalfa County Jail after pleading guilty last month to an amended charge of second-degree manslaughter. She also received a six-year deferred sentence and was ordered to pay a $1,000 assessment in lieu of a fine, pay $250 to the victims' compensation fund, pay costs and fees, and to have 24 months of supervision.

Jailers John Robert Markus pleaded guilty to an amended charge of second-degree manslaughter and received a four-year suspended sentence and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, $250 to the victims compensation fund, $25 jail costs and all other court costs. Jailer Shawn Caleb Galusha pleaded no contest to his amended charge and received a three-year deferred sentence, was ordered to serve 55 hours in Alfalfa County Jail, pay a $1,000 assessment, $250 to the victims compensation fund, $25 jail costs and all other court costs.

The sheriff was set for jury trial June 3 on two misdemeanor counts of nepotism. An order filed in the case by Texas County District Judge Jon K. Parsley, who was appointed to hear the case when all Garfield County judges recused, stated he had been advised of a settlement of the matter.

"The case will remain pending," Parsley wrote in the filing. "Either party may ask the Court to re-schedule proceedings in this matter upon written application."

According to online court records, no new date has been set.

The nepotism charges, filed Feb. 14, 2018, accused the sheriff of appointing his son Logan Niles and daughter-in-law Jennifer Shay Niles "to a new position and duties of employment with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office and increased the salary, wages, pay or compensation" for them.

An affidavit in the nepotism case was prepared by District 26 investigator Steve Tanio.

On Aug. 22, 2016, Garfield County District Attorney Mike Fields requested the Oklahoma attorney general appoint a prosecutor to investigate allegations of official misconduct by Jerry Niles in the appointment of his son and daughter-in-law within the sheriff's office, according to the affidavit. In Fields' request to the AG, he attached correspondence with Niles consisting of legal advice regarding nepotism on two occasions: Dec. 6, 2012, and June 21, 2016.

In the December letter, Fields told the sheriff his son could continue his employment with the office after the sheriff's official election. However, Fields advised Niles there could be no change in his son's "position, duties, responsibilities and compensation after you take office as sheriff. ... There can be no changes in his status after you take office without that being a new 'appointment' and thus being in violation of the nepotism laws," according to the affidavit.

In the June letter, Fields again referenced his legal advice from the previous letter. It also states, "It has come to my attention that Jennifer Niles, your daughter-in-law, may have a different title, position, duties or responsibilities (than) when you took office. If this information is accurate, then you may very well be in violation of Title 21, Section 481."

Fields also noted he'd had a "handful of conversations with Sheriff Niles. ... In these conversations, Sheriff Niles indicated to Fields that he did not believe he had violated the state's nepotism laws," according to the affidavit. Fields reviewed payroll certifications from the Garfield County Clerk's Office and determined changes in compensation for both Logan and Jennifer since Jerry Niles had been in office, as well as changes in the "nature or work" column for Jennifer.

In July 2012, Logan Niles was employed as a K-9 deputy with a monthly salary of $2,780, records show. In December 2012, he was promoted to sergeant with a salary of $2,992. Due to cost-of-living adjustments in June 2014, Logan's salary was $3,170, according to the affidavit. On July 14, 2014, Jerry Niles reclassified Logan as a second deputy/sergeant position with a new salary of $3,300, which was an increase of $130 per month.

Records for Jennifer Niles showed in December 2012, she was employed as a deputy sheriff with a monthly salary of $2,678. In mid-June 2014 Jennifer still was employed as a deputy sheriff and due to cost-of-living adjustments had a salary of $2,835, according to the affidavit. Jennifer was reclassified as jail administrator with a salary of $3,357 and had changes in her job duties.

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