POLSON -- Lake County Undersheriff Karey Reynolds announced his resignation Friday in an open letter to county residents, marking the latest twist in a long-running story of a sheriff's office beset by allegations of corruption.
"At this time, I am no longer the best man for the job," Reynolds said in the letter, indicating that someone with stronger skills in human resources would better serve the position.
Reynolds said Detective Dan Yonkin would take over as undersheriff on Feb. 14. Yonkin finished last in a three-way race to replace Sheriff Lucky Larson in 2010 that was won by then-Undersheriff Jay Doyle.
Allegations against both Doyle and Reynolds are under investigation by the Montana Department of Justice, at Doyle's request.
Justice spokesman John Doran said Friday that Reynolds' resignation would not affect either investigation.
"Nothing changes by Mr. Reynolds' resignation as undersheriff," Doran said. "We're still pursuing the allegation from a criminal standpoint, and the investigation is still ongoing."
Doyle requested the outside investigation after sheriff's Detective Steve Kendley -- who finished second in the 2010 sheriff election -- alleged that Doyle had instructed a deputy who had been contacted by a citizen about a possible crime not to investigate it.
At the same time, Doyle asked the Justice Department to look into a complaint by the deputy treasurer of Kendley's campaign, Mike Gehl, that Reynolds had misrepresented his years of service while applying for a search warrant.
Doyle did not respond to a phone message from the Missoulian Friday seeking comment.
Reynolds' letter did not directly address the allegation of obstruction of justice by Doyle, or the allegation of perjury against himself, but said the continuing controversies surrounding the sheriff's office were taking their toll on the department.
"It is no secret that the Sheriff Office is going through a difficult time," Reynolds wrote. "Rumors of officer wrongdoing continue to be rehashed despite the fact that the election is long past and that, like Elvis, previous administrations have left the building."
"I am greatly saddened to see that the reputations of the outstanding men and women who protect and serve the people of Lake County have been damaged through the spiteful mud-slinging of an unhappy minority who have allowed their personal agendas to ride roughshod over their loyalty and good sense," he continued.
The 2010 election brought out allegations ranging from wildlife poaching by members of law enforcement, to charges of missing ammunition from the department.
Doyle's announcement that he would name Reynolds undersheriff if elected became a campaign issue as well.
Months after Doyle defeated Kendley by less than 300 votes out of more than 10,000 cast, the Montana commissioner of political practices dismissed a complaint that Doyle had violated state election laws by promising to appoint Reynolds to the post.
In dismissing the complaint filed by Ken Scott of St. Ignatius, the law cited in the allegation was called "cumbersome and ambiguous at best."
In resigning, Reynolds said it had become apparent to him that the job of undersheriff needed to be restructured from its traditional role of the day-to-day supervision of officers.
"Part of this restructuring would require an undersheriff with much stronger skills and experience in human resources than I currently possess," he wrote. "It wasn't my intention to remodel my job into one I wasn't suited for, but I can see that this would be best for the office, and ensuring that what needs to be done gets done is more important than ensuring that I'm the man doing it."
Reynolds said he and Doyle had discussed training options, "but in the end, I have decided that I am not comfortable continuing in a job where I would have to acquire my skills at taxpayer expense."
Part of the decision, he added, was "based on the knowledge that there is already someone within the office who possesses the necessary skills."
He then said Yonkin would be replacing him.
Yonkin, who ran for sheriff as a Democrat, largely stayed out of the election fray waged between the Doyle and Kendley campaigns.
Doyle is a Republican. Kendley ran as an independent.
"I will continue to support the Lake County Sheriff Office, Sheriff Jay Doyle, and Undersheriff Dan Yonkin," Reynolds said at the conclusion of his letter. "It is my hope that the citizens of Lake County will do the same. Thank you for the opportunity to serve and protect. It has been an honor."