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Oklahoma sheriff and deputies resign en masse over jail conditions
An Oklahoma sheriff and all of her deputies have resigned en masse in protest of conditions in the county jail, according to NBC News.
Nowata County Sheriff Sue Barnett reportedly announced her resignation Monday in response to a judge ordering her to reopen the county's jail, where high levels of carbon monoxide hospitalized four of her employees in February.
Nowata District Judge Carl Gibson told Barnett, who was elected last November, that she would be held in contempt of court if she did not return more than 12 inmates to the jail, according to the network.
Barnett reportedly said her "tipping point" came on Feb. 28, when the level of carbon monoxide in the jail reached 18 and she evacuated her staff and the inmates. The standard lethal level is 20.
"I've said from the beginning that if I became sheriff, I would serve the citizens by standing up and doing the right things," Barnett in a statement, according to NBC. "This is just wrong, and I wasn't going to put human beings in that jail until we knew what was going on."
Twelve members of the department, including civilian employees and deputies, also announced their resignation on Monday. The department's K-9 officer, Ranger, also left.
Barnett's resignation letter also outlines other dangerous conditions in the jail, according to NBC, including exposed wires in shower areas, widespread mold and plumbing issues that often allow methane to escape into the jail. The inmates have reportedly been transferred to Washington County.
Gibson declared Barnett's resignation void, but the sheriff denied the judge has that power, according to NBC News.
"I do not work for the judge. The judge is an elected official. I am also an elected official," Barnett said, the network noted. "I do not believe we live in a country where we can be ordered to go to work when I have already tendered my resignation."