“Done with it”: Malheur Sheriff won’t investigate newspaper

Oregon

County officials had asked the sheriff to look into whether newspaper engaged in criminal activity

MALHEUR COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — The Malheur County Sheriff’s Office will not investigate the staff of the Malheur Enterprise. Sheriff Brian Wolfe told KOIN 6 early Wednesday morning that, after a few hours of review, a detective determined there were “no elements of a crime.”

County Counsel Stephanie Williams reportedly contacted the sheriff with allegations against the Enterprise over emails and calls to the city developmental officials.

The director of Malheur County Economic Development Department Greg Smith said the Enterprise was attempting to contact officials outside of office hours using their personal emails.

According to the Enterprise, Smith asked the paper to limit requests to office hours and to a single county email address. He also said that he and his staff have been subjected to emails “at all hours of the day.”

Williams reportedly asked for the sheriff’s involvement in order to determine “if there is a violation to investigate when a county employee’s phone numbers and email addresses are being used when we’ve asked someone to stop calling or communicating on county business on a personal phone or email.”

However, during a government meeting last fall Smith was the one to give what he described as his “personal” phone number to the public, saying he was available “24/7.”

The same number is also listed on various press releases from Malheur County.

Wolfe said the detective looked at whether the newspaper’s actions qualified harassment or telephonic harassment. The detective determined that they did not. “We will not be conducting an investigation,” Wolfe said. “We are done with it.”

He said the whole incident has been “very emotional on both sides,” telling KOIN 6 that he has received numerous emails and voice mails encouraging him to go after “fake news” and, alternately, implying his job may be at stake if his office investigated the Enterprise staff.

“We value the Constitution of the United States,” Wolfe said. “We support freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

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