Commission again revokes certification of Marshall County sheriff

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota law enforcement oversight board has once again revoked the certification of a longtime sheriff accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The state Law Enforcement Officers Standards And Training Commission met Thursday to reconsider action against Marshall County Sheriff Dale Elsen after a judge told commissioners to consider alternative sanctions.

The Aberdeen American News reports that in December Elsen, appearing before commissioners, admitted to seven instances of sexual harassment at work. That’s when the commission first revoked his certification for conduct “unbecoming of a law enforcement officer.” Elsen appealed to the state’s Fifth Judicial Circuit and a judge sent the case back to commissioners to reconsider alternatives, such as a suspension or probation.

The harassment includes displaying sexually explicit items at work and making crass comments about employees’ personal lives.

Elsen, as well as two deputies with the sheriff’s office and a former county commissioner, testified Thursday that they thought lesser sanctions would be more appropriate given Elsen’s election record, as well as a petition signed by over 200 supporters.

Assistant Attorney General Brent Kempema asked Elsen whether public support should direct the commission’s decision.

“I think public support shows that they support me and how I do my job. … It should show you folks (the commission) where I am in the community,” Elsen responded.

After hours of testimony and executive session discussion, the commission came to the same unanimous conclusion and revoked Elsen’s license. Commissioners said a suspension would ultimately place too much of a burden on lower level officers who would have to shoulder Elsen’s responsibilities while he was away.

Elsen declined to comment following the hearing. He has served as Marshall County sheriff since 1983 and was re-elected in November.