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Murray County at war over 'hostile work environment' claims at sheriff's office

Murray County commissioners have called for the local sheriff's resignation.
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Murray County is embroiled in a row between its Board of Commissioners and the local sheriff, who has been accused of creating a "hostile work environment" for his employees.

Commissioners for the southwest Minnesota county last week asked for Sheriff Steve Telkamp's resignation, after seeing the results of an external investigation into video footage that showed him on an abusive tirade in front of staff .

Telkamp, who has held the post for 16 years, rejected the calls for resignation and, angered by his department's treatment by the board, has announced he intends to run for re-election this November.

The county board can't fire Telkamp, as he's an elected official.

But on Thursday, it did appoint law enforcement veteran Mark Nipp as the county's interim director of sheriff. He'll be tasked with overseeing personnel matters at the sheriff's office for the remainder of Telkamp's current tenure.

"Sheriff Telkamp will retain every law enforcement right he has as your elected Sheriff, but the county is taking as much action as possible, under due process of the law, to protect its employees from hostile conduct and retaliation," the county said in a statement to BMTN.

"[Mr. Nipp] will be available to the employees in the Sheriff’s Department to discuss and address any concerns of harassment or discrimination and may take action to address and remedy the situations as they arise."

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What's it all about?

The investigation was sparked by four videos dating back to November, which  show Telkamp ranting in front of staff. The commission said this was evidence of a hostile work environment.

You can read the full report here, in which Telkamp is accused of ranting in an "abusive," "profane" and even "sexually-charged" manner, featuring "hostile and offensive" comments made about the commissioners and the county coordinator, Aurora Heard.

In one of the videos seen by BMTN, Telkamp calls refers to commissioners as a "p---y board" and threatens the city with a possible lawsuit.

The investigation report also claims he threatened the job of a female dispatcher who is related to a county commissioner he referred to as "f-----g retarded" and a "failed f---."

After reading the investigator's report, commissioners said they had no choice but to ask for his resignation. 

But Telkamp, in a statement issued to the Worthington Globe last week, says the commission first asked him to resign in February, claiming they threatened to "release a video that would be damaging to my reputation" if he didn't.

Telkamp says he was venting about comments made by commissioners during an open meeting, in which they allegedly talked about terminating employees, reducing hours and cutting salaries at the sheriff's office.

He apologized for his actions, saying he was concerned for his employees, and several local residents attended a commission meeting on Tuesday to show their support for Telkamp – with some arguing his future should be decided by voters in November, as KSFY reports.

"I hope that Murray County, as a community, will not judge my 16-year career on a 7 minute video that they put together," Sheriff Telkamp wrote in the Globe. "My passion for my employees and this community got the best of me during that time, for that, I apologize."

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