Mower County Sheriff steps away from work following county investigation into his work behavior

Nov. 25—AUSTIN — Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik has decided to step away from work to address a medical issue, according to a county official.

This leave follows the start of an investigation by the county into Sandvik's work behavior earlier this month.

"Sheriff Sandvik is an elected official and not an employee of the county. Therefore, he does not report to the county and county employment policy does not apply to him. He serves and reports to the people of Mower County who elect him," Mower County Administrator Trish Harren wrote in an email to the Post Bulletin. "Any decisions regarding time away from work are his personal decision. With that said, my understanding is that he has chosen to take some time away from work to address a medical issue."

Sandvik did not respond to a request for comment about the investigation.

Sandvik told the Post Bulletin in a phone call earlier this week that he was notified by someone at work on Nov. 16 that he was not well, and he was given a ride home. He described the situation as a personal medical issue and declined to comment further.

When pressed about what the issue was, the phone call was disconnected. Sandvik did not answer when the Post Bulletin called him back minutes later.

Mower County received a complaint Nov. 17 regarding Sandvik's behavior at work on Nov. 16 and the county retained a legal team to investigate the matter starting Nov. 18, according to Harren.

"The county has no authority over an elected official. Elected officials are subject to statutes — laws — just as other citizens are. But they are not employees, so they are not subject to employment policies," Harren wrote. "However, they can voluntarily choose to comply with employment policies."

Harren wrote that the investigation is ongoing and there are no findings at this point. She believes that Sandvik will make his own public statement and "will choose to respond in whatever manner is deemed appropriate given the findings."

"My experience with Sheriff Sandvik is that he holds himself to high standards," she wrote. "He works long hours and would give the shirt off his back for anyone. Perhaps to the detriment of taking care of his own health and well-being."

Austin Police Chief David McKichan declined to comment about the issue surrounding Sandvik's behavior on Nov. 16.