Burke County sheriff resigns, declines severance package offered by county commissioners

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BOWBELLS, North Dakota — The sheriff in Burke County has resigned months after allegations of employee harassment and a hostile work environment surfaced.

Sheriff Michael Cude's resignation became effective Saturday after he met with county commissioners who offered him a severance package in exchange for his resignation, the Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/1BBhXqt ) reported. Cude declined the package, which included two months' pay plus benefits and a waiver of liability.

Commissioners promoted Sgt. Nick Throntveit to chief deputy to oversee the office.

Cude, who was appointed sheriff in May, was facing a general election in November after being a top candidate in the June primary. Months after his appointment, though, commissioners began looking into allegations of a hostile work environment at the sheriff's office.

Cude has faced allegations of employee harassment and his actions regarding employee removals and disciplinary actions have been questioned. He denies all the allegations and has said he was just trying to do his job.

A group of Burke County residents submitted a petition to start the process of having him removed. But Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told the commissioners they had the authority to remove Cude.

"Since any governor's removal process likely could not be concluded before the November 2014 general election and the wishes of the voters will thus resolve the issue, removal by the county commission is the only mechanism capable of addressing your concerns prior to the election," Stenehjem wrote in an opinion.

Cude was one of the top candidates for sheriff in the primary and advanced to the general election, according to the Daily News. The second candidate who advanced later withdrew and two others are now running.

The new candidates are former deputy Jeremy Grohs and current deputy Pete Schneider.


Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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