Burgum Decides to Reinstate Schwartzenberger

gary schwartzenberger_1494263341088_20980297_ver1.0_640_360_1501877976147.PNG

Governor Dough Burgum ordered the reinstatement of McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger to the position of Sheriff today. 

According to a press release sent by the Governor’s office, Schwartzenberger’s reinstatement is effective immediately. 

Special Commissioner Karen Klein recommended this move last week. According to the release, she found no substantiated ground for removing the former sheriff and recommended he be returned to his elected office. 

A copy of the Governor’s order is below: 



Upon reviewing the file, the transcript from the hearing on July 18-19, 2017, and the report, findings and recommendation issued by Special Commissioner Karen Klein, it is apparent this removal proceeding has divided McKenzie County.  The Special Commissioner’s report identifies various “power struggles” between the McKenzie County Commission and the Sheriff, demonstrated, as an example, by the Commission’s attempt to bring the Sheriff’s Department in line with other county offices, and the Sheriff’s desire to operate autonomously. 

Special Commissioner Klein noted evidence of heavy-handedness, crude and unprofessional behavior, and non-collaborative actions by Sheriff Schwartzenberger. And while these actions may not manifest optimal outcomes or performance, Commissioner Klein further concluded that none of these actions singularly, or in total, meet the high burden of proof threshold required for removal of a duly elected official from office.

Therefore, reinstatement of Sheriff Schwartzenberger presents a crossroads for McKenzie County. Either it will be an opportunity for a fresh start, or a continuation of local conflict, angst and contention. 

Understandably, a fresh start will be difficult and will require introspection, humility and forgiveness by many parties. As elected officials, each Commission member and the Sheriff must remember the fundamental purpose and responsibilities inherent in their respective positions – to serve and protect the citizens and resources of McKenzie County. 

Sheriff Schwartzenberger’s reinstatement and return to his elected position is his opportunity to lead with humility, integrity and respect — and to treat every employee, every elected official and every citizen with fairness. 

If these opportunities are acknowledged, appreciated and pursued with empathy and determination, McKenzie County will become a stronger and more vibrant community in which to work, live and prosper.

NOW, THEREFORE, by the power vested in the Governor pursuant to Article V, North Dakota Constitution and Chapters 44-11 and 54-07, North Dakota Century Code, the Special Commissioner’s report and recommendation is adopted in its entirety. 


  1. The Complaint for Removal is hereby dismissed;
  2. The suspension of Gary Schwartzenberger from the position of McKenzie County Sheriff is terminated;
  3. Gary Schwartzenberger is reinstated to the position of McKenzie County Sheriff, to resume the duties of the office to which he was elected. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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