FILE — Ed Troyer

Pierce County Sheriff's Dept. spokesman Ed Troyer, center, talks to reporters, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in front of the home, center, in Spanaway, Wash., where authorities say a member of the U.S. Air Force, who was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, fatally shot his two young children and their mother before killing himself overnight. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer will rely on voters to keep his job after a charter amendment failed to pass the Pierce County Council.

Troyer remains under fire for a call he made to authorities from his Tacoma home on January 26 concerning a Black newspaper carrier, Sedrick Altheimer. Troyer, who was elected last fall, claims Altheimer threatened to kill him and that he was acting "suspicious." The 911 call drew 40 officers from multiple law enforcement agencies and resulted in Altheimer's arrest.

Altheimer sued Pierce County for $5 million over the incident, igniting demands for Troyer to step down. Troyer has refused and has denied all wrongdoing. He has reiterated his claims that Altheimer threatened him despite walking back on that claim in the initial police report.

The incident inspired the Pierce County Council to pursue a charter amendment allowing them to fire Troyer and make the sheriff's office an appointed position. On Tuesday, the seven-member council failed to find the supermajority needed to pass such an amendment. The 4-3 vote fell along party lines.

Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young, D-Gig Harbor, argued that appointing the sheriff would allow the county to pick the best and brightest from a pool of candidates nationwide.

"Since some have questioned my motives, I'll note that my final term also expires in 2022," Young wrote. "Regardless of the outcome, I would have no role in either appointment. For me, this is about good government and giving Pierce County residents the best odds of having capable department-level officials."

The Pierce County Sheriff's office was an elected position until 1979, when former Sheriff George V. Janovich Sr. was convicted of racketeering. It remained an appointed position until 2006, when it once again became an elected office, with Paul Pastor elected in 2008. Pastor stepped down in 2020 and was succeeded by Troyer, a spokesperson for the office.

Councilmember Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, pointed out at Tuesday's meeting that voters regularly elect judges to nonpartisan offices. The sheriff's office should be entrusted to voters the same way, he said. 

While the vast majority of Washington sheriffs and those nationwide are elected, voters in King County decided to let the county council take the reins of the office on the grounds more qualified candidates could fill it.

Troyer has argued leaving the sheriff's office up to voters allows the sheriff to be more accountable. Troyer's current term is up in 2025; the earliest he could leave office had the charter amendment passed.

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