Ontario County Sheriff to resign after first round of subpoenas issued in investigation

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CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WHEC) — Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson will resign.

This comes after the first round of subpoenas were issued in the investigation into Sheriff Henderson Wednesday.

The committee is looking into accusations Henderson made comments of a sexual nature in front of staff and that he did not discipline command staff when inappropriate comments were made in front of him.

Sheriff Henderson’s attorney, Eugene Welch, issued the following statement on Henderson’s behalf Wednesday evening:

"Representatives of the Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson and Ontario County recently met and determined that it is in the best interest of the Sheriff, his family, and the employees of Ontario County that the Sheriff resign his office effective immediately. Neither the Sheriff nor the County have any additional statement regarding the Sheriff’s resignation."

Last week, the police union representing deputies in the county said it put forward of vote of no confidence in the sheriff, calling the culture in his office "toxic."

Members of his own department said they haven’t seen much of him over the past few months and he was a no-show at a public safety committee meeting he was scheduled to speak at on Wednesday.

Sheriff Henderson has been at the center of an investigation into alleged workplace harassment and at the Board of Supervisors meeting he skipped Wednesday, the committee decided to formally request his resignation.

Ontario County taxpayers fund Sheriff Henderson’s nearly $120,000 annual salary but since the Board of Supervisors hired an outside law firm to investigate whether he created or fostered a toxic workplace, he hasn’t been seen or heard from much.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke has been trying to reach Sheriff Henderson for weeks, her calls and text messages have gone unreturned. She spent several hours outside his office on Wednesday but the Sheriff never showed up for work and it appears she’s not the only one he’s been ignoring.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC) – When was the last time you talked to the Sheriff?

Chris DeBolt (Ontario County Administrator) – Formal communication, it’s has been quite some time. He has not communicated with us or anyone really in my administration in a significant period of time.

Jennifer Lewke – What is your understanding about how often the Sheriff is actually working right now?

Chris DeBolt – It’s highly variable from what I’ve been told from staff in the department. Sometimes they won’t see him for a few days, sometimes he’ll be in for an hour or two here and there, it’s very erratic at this point.

Jennifer Lewke – And does it doesn’t seem as though there are any efforts being undertaken to unify his department at this point?

Chris DeBolt – Not that we’ve been able to see, no. I’ve never seen nor heard of a situation exactly like this but it is imperative to know and I’ve said it before but it bears repeating… the men and women of this department are exemplary and I want to compliment everything they do on a daily basis and especially what they continue to do it in light of the situation they’re in right now.

Last week, the Union that represents full and part-time deputies, sergeants and investigators in Ontario County issued a vote of no-confidence in their boss saying in a statement, “Our full-time road patrol is budgeted for 45 positions. There are presently only 26 deputies in these positions, three more will be leaving in the next 30 days, and several of those that remain are actively looking for positions elsewhere.”

Jennifer Lewke – When you look at those numbers, I mean it’s almost half of the department that has left?

Chris DeBolt – It’s exceedingly concerning and especially if you overlay that with the current national and local discourse about criminal justice reform. It’s very difficult to recruit people for careers in law enforcement right now. These are not positions that we can fill quickly and certainly with deputies and even corrections officers you do want to be really careful that you’re selecting the right people, you don’t want to just select anybody because we have a shortage so that amount of turnover in this short of time, it’s just devastating to the department. The men and women are working overtime, they’re doing everything they can to ensure we still have coverage but it’s a great personal expense. They’re being mandated all the time and working extremely long hours which is just a recipe for burnout for everybody.

Jennifer Lewke – If he (Sheriff Henderson) doesn’t step down, you can’t really do anything other than ask the Governor to remove him?

Chris DeBolt – That is correct.

Jennifer Lewke – Are you considering an ask like that?

Chris DeBolt – We may be forced to yes, we haven’t yet but that is certainly something that we are considering very strongly.