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Ethics Commission Approves Legal Fund For Embattled Oregon Sheriff

<p>When Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer heard about the Oregon State Police traffic stop and the shooting along Highway 395, he traveled to the roadblock near Seneca. He said he had no knowledge of law enforcement's plans.</p>

Amanda Peacher

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When Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer heard about the Oregon State Police traffic stop and the shooting along Highway 395, he traveled to the roadblock near Seneca. He said he had no knowledge of law enforcement's plans.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer will be able to gather public contributions as he defends himself against a possible criminal investigation.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission ruled Friday that Palmer can establish the legal defense fund to pay attorneys and other associated costs.

Palmer could potentially lose his law enforcement license or even face criminal charges after complaints were filed against him. Many of those complaints alleged he improperly interacted with Ammon Bundy and other militants who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days.

Palmer met with some of the key figures of the occupation over lunch in John Day in January along with a small group of local residents, but said he didn’t know three of the occupiers would be there.

After the occupation ended, state officials received at least nine complaints against Palmer. Most of those complaints allege the Grant County sheriff supported Bundy and the occupiers, thus threatening public safety in Harney County. But some of them also alleged Palmer grants concealed weapon permits at a rate much higher than sheriffs in other rural Oregon counties with similar populations.

Palmer denies the claims.

The state Department of Public Safety Standards, which upholds professional standards for law enforcement officers, is looking into the complaints. They're also being reviewed by the Oregon Department of Justice.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ryan Haas has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting since 2013. His work has won numerous awards, including two National Magazine Award nominations for the podcast "Bundyville." Prior to working at OPB, Haas worked at newspapers in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and the Caribbean.