LA GRANDE — Rumors about the Oregon Department of Justice’s investigation into Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen swirled since mid-2019, but no one who knew anything wanted to talk on the record.
That silence came to an end Saturday when The Observer featured responses to questions about the race for sheriff.
Rasmussen is seeking a fifth term. One of his challengers, deputy Cody Bowen, in an answer addressing rumors about the race, stated Rasmussen told him about the details of the ongoing justice department investigation.
Rasmussen responded Monday with a written statement, calling the investigation “a process with which we have fully cooperated, and I am confident that I will ultimately be cleared of any accusations against me.”
Neither candidate provided details about the investigation.
Rasmussen, however, took plenty of jabs at Bowen, stating the school resource officer “has insinuated that I have ‘chosen the wrong path’ and he speculates that I have engaged in some wrongdoing. This conclusion was based on a conversation with me about the existence of an investigation and little else.” He contended Bowen is not privy to the details of this investigation and drew his conclusion “without knowing even a fraction of the facts being evaluated.” He called Bowen’s move to reveal the investigation “unbecoming of any police officer, let alone anyone who thinks they possess the skill and knowledge to manage the complexities of the Union County Sheriff’s Office as I have for the past 15 years.”
Bowen, however, said he spoke with Rasmussen directly about the investigation and looked into the facts for himself.
“He told me he had done nothing criminally wrong, ‘just some ethical violations’,” Bowen said. “I am not OK with ‘just ethical violations.”
Rasmussen claimed Bowen knew about the inquiry before he and the local law enforcement union gave its endorsement for the sheriff in November. Bowen then was president of the union. According to Bowen, the sheriff at the time said the investigation was due to disgruntled employees. After checking it out the claim, Bowen said he decided to run for sheriff.
The sheriff said campaigns can bring out the worst in people.
“Bowen seems ready to say anything if he believes it will help him win,” Rasmussen stated.
The two also differ on the nature of their past professional relationship
Before running against his boss, Bowen said Rasmussen was prepping him to take over as sheriff and there were conversations about him running for sheriff after this next term. Rasmussen said those discussions were about Bowen getting more leadership training, education and broader experience in law enforcement for the future should he decide to run.
Bowen and Rasmussen continue to work together. Rasmussen said it has been relatively smooth so far. Bowen noted it has been a little bit awkward due to the change in their professional relationship.
“I feel like we will never have the relationship we used to have,” Bowen said.
Sheriff’s candidate Shane Rollins said Rasmussen should address the public on the issue and will make no further comment. And candidate Bill Miller used to be a sergeant in the sheriff’s office and left because he did not want his name tired to Rasmussen’s.
“I’m not surprised he is under investigation,” he said. “I left because of differences in leadership philosophies, his behaviors and how he treated his command staff. All things I witnessed and later confirmed with other people.”