BLACKFOOT — The search for an interim Bingham County sheriff has begun after embattled Sheriff Craig Rowland handed in his resignation Monday.
Rowland announced his resignation will take effect on Aug. 1. He has about two years left of his term, which means an interim sheriff has to fill in before the next general election takes place.
The charges and eventual resignation
Rowland was charged with felonies for aggravated assault and aggravated battery, as well as a misdemeanor for the exhibition of a weapon, following an incident on Nov. 9.
The incident began after a youth group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left a “thankful turkey” on Rowland’s front door and ran away from his porch. Afterward, Rowland went and pointed a gun at their car, which was carrying seven girls and their adult group leader. The sheriff allegedly pulled the group’s leader from the vehicle by her hair, and held a gun to her head.
Following the incident, Rowland declined to comment but did take a brief leave of absence. He eventually returned to work and remained on payroll even after he was officially charged on Dec. 13.
Since then, EastIdahoNews.com was told that Rowland has been at work on occasion, signing some paperwork. According to the Bingham County Payroll Office, Rowland’s yearly salary is $88,940. Since December 2021, Rowland has received a net pay of $36,720.20.
Rowland recently got a new attorney, which coincided with his decision to resign.
In the resignation letter sent to EastIdahoNews.com from Dennis P. Wilkinson, Rowland’s new attorney, the sheriff said he’s become “a distraction” and the county “must press forward with the work at hand, and I do not want to impede that path.”
Chief Deputy will run the sheriff’s office
Bingham County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Gardner will act in the sheriff’s absence while the Bingham County Republican Central Committee finds someone to fill the role.
“I am his designee, so when he (Rowland) is not available or absent, I would run the sheriff’s office on his behalf,” Gardner said.
Gardner said he has been effectively leading the office since November. He said the administration in the sheriff’s office has been great, and they have been keeping the ship pointed in the right direction.
“I have been doing the budgets. We’ve implemented a new records management system. That project has been an 18-month-long project and the key part of it was kicking off about the time this happened,” said Gardner. “We’ve kept that on track and on task and met critical timelines with it.”
Gardner explained that they are currently working on a jail expansion that’s on track too.
“I picked up that project myself with the help of a few others in our administration and moved that forward and have kept it moving forward,” said Gardner.
Gardner hopes to continue helping the sheriff’s office.
“I am going to absolutely submit my name to the Republican Central Committee and seek the appointment of the office of sheriff,” Gardner said.
Gardner started with the sheriff’s office in 1995. He worked in the jail as a detention deputy and from there went out to patrol. He said in 2008, for four and a half years, he worked in the security force at INL and, during that time, also worked with the city of Blackfoot. He then came back in 2013 to the sheriff’s office as chief deputy for Rowland.
“It’s taken all of the employees at the sheriff’s office to work through this trying time, and it’s a collaborative effort, and we’ve all managed to keep morale up as best as we can. We’ve had some retirements, we’ve had new hires. Everybody has really put their head down and went back to work,” Gardner said.
He told EastIdahoNews.com that he is grateful to the community.
“One thing I can say is we live in a great community. Southeast Idaho has understood that this isn’t the sheriff’s office culture, and they feel like it’s maybe an incident that was isolated to one person and a group of people, and they haven’t held the officers accountable for somebody else’s actions. That’s not a culture we have here. We continue to serve and protect all of Bingham County,” Gardner said.
The Bingham County Republican Central Committee
People who are interested in the sheriff’s position can submit their names to the Bingham County Republican Central Committee.
“(The committee) will submit three names to the Bingham County Commissioners, and we will go through them and appoint one of those to finish the term out,” said Mark Bair, a Bingham County Commissioner.
The process of finding an interim sheriff will move fairly quickly.
“Our job is to find the most qualified person we can,” said Dan Cravens, Bingham County Republican Central Committee chairman. “It’s our goal to get it filled sooner rather than later.”
Cravens said the committee has to submit the three names to the commissioners by Aug. 15.
Cravens explained there won’t be a job posting online for Rowland’s position due to the fact that it’s an elected position. He said if anyone is interested, they need to reside in Bingham County, and he would like them to submit a resume and cover letter to his email: firstname.lastname@example.org