County commissioners respond to disparaging remarks allegedly made by sheriff
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BLACKFOOT — Bingham County Commissioners have individually issued statements following disparaging comments Sheriff Craig Rowland allegedly told investigators about members of the Fort Hall Reservation.
The Idaho Attorney General charged Rowland Tuesday with two felonies and a misdemeanor after he allegedly assaulted a youth group who left a thank you note at his home. When speaking with investigators about the incident, Rowland began talking about people of the nearby Fort Hall Reservation.
“I have been doing this job for 36 years, I have had drunk Indians drive down my cul-de-sac,” Rowland said, according to court documents. “I’ve had drunk Indians come to my door. I live just off the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people.”
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes called for Rowland’s resignation and a public apology Thursday. Hours later, each county commissioner issued a response about the alleged statements. None of the commissioners addressed the fact that their Sheriff is charged with felony aggravated assault, felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor exhibition of a gun. Rowland is back at work as of two weeks ago after taking a leave of absence.
“I am deeply disappointed and saddened, both on a personal and professional level, by the disparaging remarks attributed to Sheriff Rowland about our tribal neighbors in Fort Hall,” Commissioner Whitney Manwaring said. “…Some of my family’s and my closest and most trusted friends are tribal members and residents of Fort Hall. I would welcome them to my home any time. I offer my inadequate but sincere apology and will continue to work to promote a better relationship with the tribe however I can.”
Commissioner Mark Bair said he disagrees with what Rowland allegedly said and stated Bingham County “does not operate in that mindset.”
“I truly care about the Native American Community and have witnessed great relationships develop through our interactions over the years and I will strive to keep those relationships positive and make this a community where everyone can feel safe and protected,” Bair said. “As a Bingham County elected official, I have a lot of faith in the judicial system. I believe that the legal issues going on with Craig Rowland in his personal life should resolve and will resolve within the judicial system and not through the media.”
Commissioner Jessica Lewis said she was “shocked and disappointed” by Rowland’s comments.
“The Reservation and its members are, and have always been, an important part of Bingham County. The comments reflect the beliefs of one individual and in no way do I agree with or condone them. Having a positive relationship with the Tribe is extremely important to me and I hope that we will be able to repair the damage caused by these hurtful comments,” Lewis said.
Rowland’s attorney Justin Oleson attacked EastIdahoNews.com for posting the statement about tribal members included in the probable cause affidavit. He called EastIdahoNews.com a tabloid and said there was no reason to include the comments other than to cause “drama and unrest.”
“That statement was taken completely out of context by the investigator and East Idaho News,” Oleson said to EastIdahoNews.com “It appears that occurred so that Sherriff (sic) Rowland’s name could be further slandered and his reputation tarnished by the media in an attempt to sway the jury of public opinion. Sherriff (sic) Rowland has had a good working relationship with the Shoshone Bannock Tribes and Tribal Members and has the utmost respect for his law-abiding neighbors on the reservation.”
In the Nov. 9 incident, a group of girls between 12 and 16 left a thank you note at Rowland’s home. As they were leaving, he went outside, grabbed their adult leader by the hair and removed her from a vehicle. Rowland then said he held a gun to the woman’s head area before letting her go, according to court documents.
Rowland is scheduled for his first court appearance on Dec. 22.