Last updated: 5 months ago
Gov. Jack Dalrymple has suspended Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski while a criminal case proceeds against him.
Kukowski faces misdemeanor charges of refusing to perform a public duty and reckless endangerment in the October 2014 death of county jail inmate Dustin Irwin. The 25-year-old Mandaree man died at a hospital after going into cardiac arrest. The state Corrections Department determined that jail officials failed to give Irwin proper supervision or medical treatment.
Kukowski was charged in February. The next month he went on a 90-day medical leave to recover from knee surgery. He returned to work Wednesday, but Dalrymple — on the advice of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem — suspended him for six months or until the criminal case is resolved.
"The governor believes it is in the best interest of the state that the sheriff be suspended from the performance of his duties," Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent told the Minot Daily News.
Ward County was served with an order of noncompliance on Dec. 19, said Steven Engen, director of staff development and facility inspection with the North Dakota Department of Corrections.
The Department of Corrections investigation found the Ward County Jail has been violating state laws and rules in not providing medical physicals to inmates as required, not sending nine correctional officers to approved training within their first year of employment and consistently operating above its rated inmate capacity with insufficient staffing.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations also is conducting a criminal investigation into the Oct. 6 death of inmate Dustin Irwin, 25, of Mandaree.
"The supervision and medical treatment provided to inmate Dustin Irwin from October 3, 2014, to October 6, 2014, by the correctional facility staff and administration was grossly inadequate," the Department of Correction's investigative report stated. "Every level of command within the Ward County Sheriff's office failed to provide adequate care to inmate Dustin Irwin."
The Department of Corrections ordered the Ward County Sheriff's Office to undergo an audit of all facility operations, policies, procedures and practices and respond with the findings and recommendations within 30 days. Findings that reveal a significant risk to life safety must be corrected immediately. The county has until July to get its staff fully trained.
The Department of Corrections has hired a compliance monitor who will keep tabs on the jail at Ward County's expense.
February 2016 Sheriff Charged
April 2016 Settlement undisclosed sum
June 2016 Governor suspends Sheriff