A "pattern of dishonesty" gave Itasca County Sheriff Vic Williams just cause for terminating deputy Bryan Johnson, an arbitrator has found.
The firing this year stems from false timecard entries - an issue that at one point was referred for felony charges against Johnson that were later dismissed, court documents show. The arbitrator writes it was what happened after the erroneous entries were discovered that justified Johnson's firing.
"During (Johnson's) 16 years of service, there is no evidence of any effort to falsify time sheets or any payroll documents," arbitrator James A. Laumeyer wrote in a recently released opinion. "The presumptive finding was that (Johnson) did display a pattern of deceit and dishonesty in his efforts to 'cover up' his erroneous entries."
Laumeyer wrote that two outside investigators arrived at similar conclusions and found "a pattern of documented untruths."
Johnson's union, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 65 Local 639A was contesting the firing and Johnson's placement on administrative leave.
"The arbitrator denies the grievance of the union and finds that the county had just cause for termination," Laumeyer wrote.
In a statement to the News Tribune, Williams said the independent arbitrator "heard all of the evidence and made a thorough and well reasoned decision."
Johnson said in his own statement he was "disappointed" in the ruling and will be appealing.
"I unequivocally deny any and all assertions that I was untruthful in the matter," Johnson said. "The current sheriff has a pattern of retaliation against employees who report wrongdoing within the office and challenge his position. I will not be deterred and will continue my campaign to seek election as the next Itasca County sheriff."
Johnson and Williams are running for sheriff in November's election after both advanced in the August primary. Johnson's claim of political motivation for his firing after he ran against Williams a first time in 2014 was shot down by the arbitrator.
"The arbitrator found no influence or malicious act by the sheriff in this matter," Laumeyer wrote. "There was also no evidence that the grievant was treated differently after the last election when he ran against the sheriff. ... Accordingly, the arbitrator has rejected the conspiracy story."