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Gary Mills

County sheriff to retire due to health problems

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Hubbard County Sheriff Gary Mills has submitted a letter of resignation, indicating he will retire April 30.

Mills has been plagued with health problems this winter due to a defective hip socket he received in a surgery more than a year ago. The socket was removed earlier this winter after Mills contracted a staph infection, and he is scheduled to undergo a second hip surgery April 9 at the Mayo Clinic.

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Mills has been sheriff 10 years. He sent the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners his letter of resignation Wednesday, indicating "it may be several months before I will be able to return to even limited duty."

Mills indicated that it would "not be fair to my employees or my constituents" to remain out on leave indefinitely.

In the resignation letter dated Feb. 26, Mills urged the board to appoint Chief Deputy Frank Homer as his replacement, to fill out the remaining two years of his term. Because the letter took a circuitous route to the courthouse, commissioners didn't receive it until March 4, the date of their meeting.

Commissioners took no action on the suggestion to appoint Homer, saying they wanted to explore all options available.

Mills was hired by the county in 1979 as a deputy. He was promoted to investigator in 1988 and elected sheriff in 1998. He earned $82,112.45 in 2008 and was slated to receive 3 percent above that salary this year.

He has been wheelchair bound since doctors removed the hip hardware in February. He told commissioners the socket and rod inserted into his hip is now the subject of a recall by the manufacturer. He has suffered chronic infection, fever and pain since the hardware was surgically implanted.

In another development, a Hubbard County deputy who has been under investigation since last summer for an alleged sexual assault committed while on duty also submitted his resignation, effective March 3.

The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave Sept. 9, the day after the sexual assault allegation was reported to authorities. The man was drawing his full annual salary of $44,964.61.

He has not been charged with a crime, and Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he couldn't discuss whether any charges will be filed or are pending. He said he cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

County coordinator Jack Paul said the deputy was not pressured to resign. "He said he thought it would be best" under the circumstances, Paul said of the deputy's reasons for resigning.

Homer did appear at the county board meeting and asked the commission to consider replacing the deputy.

The county, due to a financial squeeze, enacted a hiring freeze earlier this winter.

Commissioners suggested filling the deputy's spot with part-time workers, but agreed to look into the matter because Homer said filling the position was "a matter of public safety."

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