- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A special commissioner appointed by the North Dakota governor has recommended that a suspended county sheriff be allowed to return to his post.

A removal hearing for McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger was held over a two-day period last week.

Special Commissioner Karen Klein said in her recommendation to Gov. Doug Burgum that the state hasn’t provided enough evidence for Schwartzenberger’s removal.

“The statute envisions removal from elected office based on particularized and egregious conduct, not the cumulation of a number of relatively minor mishaps and disagreements,” Klein wrote.

Burgum ultimately will decide if Schwartzenberger loses his job permanently.

“We don’t have a firm date or timetable for the governor’s decision,” said Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for Burgum. “The governor understands a decision needs to be made in a timely manner with consideration of all parties involved.”

Schwartzenberger was suspended from his sheriff’s position in November 2016 by then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Schwartzenberger is accused of bullying, retaliation and misusing a county credit card. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation concluded that Schwartzenberger “willfully and without authorization used the McKenzie County Sheriff’s credit card to make unauthorized purchases and charges of items for his personal use.”

Schwartzenberger also faces a charge of misapplication of entrusted property in Northwest District Court. The offense carries the maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $3,000. He’s scheduled for trial in September.

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