Alleged family favoritism in Garfield County Sheriff’s Office brought to light after inmate death

GARFIELD COUNTY, Okla. - A sheriff already indicted for the death of an inmate, now in question about his kids who were on his payroll.

Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles' son and daughter-in-law were paid to work for him, and received pay increases while he was in office. According to an Attorney General's opinion, this may violate Oklahoma nepotism law.

Legal analyst and defense attorney Jacqui Ford explains why nepotism law governing authority figures' employment of relatives have existed in the state for 100 years.

"It is a clear conflict of interest," Ford said. "Is the daughter going to go against what the son says, is the husband going to go against what his wife says?"

Ford warns family members could fail to perform their duties fully to protect one another's interests.

District Attorney Mike Fields said last summer he discovered allegations of nepotism by the sheriff.

The sheriff's son, Logan Niles, and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer Niles, work for the sheriff's office. Both the sheriff and Jennifer were also indicted in the death of Anthony Huff, a county jail inmate.

Logan and Jennifer both worked at the sheriff's office before Sheriff Niles was elected.

According to an Attorney General's opinion on nepotism regarding county employees, the two did not have to resign when Niles took office.

However, the opinion also states that family would be prohibited "from ever being considered for raises, lateral transfers, or promotions while the relative in question is in office ..."

NewsChannel 4 took a look into county payroll records since Jerry Niles took office as the sheriff in January 2013.

Records show that in February 2013, Logan received a monthly salary of $2,992, and Jennifer received a monthly salary of $2,678.

This past July, Logan was paid $3,726.67.

Jennifer's last full paycheck in May 2016, the month before she was terminated, was $3,141.50.

The sheriff had authority over the funds used to pay these salaries. Both received an increase in their salary while Niles was in office.

Jennifer was also listed as a deputy when Niles took office, and jail administrator when she was terminated.

"The statute is read to be very, very broad when dealing with public officials and what that means," Ford said, "and the sheriff's office is certainly applicable to nepotism laws."

Fields said he turned the information regarding allegations of nepotism to the Attorney General's office last summer. He recused himself from the inmate death investigation because he is too close to the sheriff's office.

A spokesperson for the AG said that information was immediately turned over to the DA assigned to the inmate death investigation, Chris Boring.

However Boring said an investigation into nepotism violation was not a part of the inmate death investigation.

It is unclear if there is any investigation into the allegations.

Sheriff Niles declined to comment before speaking with his lawyer.