- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - The prosecutor who brought misdemeanor charges against Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski in the death of a jail inmate now wants him removed from office.

Prosecutor Seymour Jordan has petitioned state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to initiate the process of removing the sheriff. Stenehjem has about a month to investigate and make a recommendation to the governor.

Kukowski’s attorney, Bruce Quick, told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1Y1RWvv ) that he doesn’t think the action is warranted.

“It’s certainly premature for anybody to be considering any petition to remove any sheriff or any other official without due process,” Quick said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”

Kukowski faces charges of refusing to perform a public duty and reckless endangerment in the October 2014 death of Dustin Irwin, 25, of Mandaree, who died at a hospital after going into cardiac arrest. Kukowski is scheduled to make an initial court appearance March 21.

An investigation by the state Corrections Department determined that jail officials failed to give Irwin proper supervision or medical treatment. A sheriff’s captain who has since retired also is charged with reckless endangerment.

If Stenehjem recommends a removal proceeding be conducted by a special commissioner and Gov. Jack Dalrymple agrees, a hearing would be held within a month. The special commissioner would have 10 days from the hearing to submit findings to the governor, who would then determine whether removing Kukowski would be in the best interest of the public. A removed public officer can appeal to state district court.

North Dakota governors have removed four sheriffs in the past 31 years. Dalrymple rejected a request from the Stark County Commission in 2012 to remove that county’s sheriff over allegations of professional misconduct.


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

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