Skuza's widow criticizes quick exit, severance for Ternes
FARGO - The widow of a police lieutenant who committed suicide in March said Monday she's glad Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes has resigned, but she is upset with how it was handled.
FARGO – The widow of a police lieutenant who committed suicide in March said Monday she’s glad Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes has resigned, but she is upset with how it was handled.
Sherrie Skuza’s husband, Lt. Jeff Skuza, shot himself March 11, as the department neared the end of an internal affairs investigation over his accidental discharge of a Taser and attempts to cover it up. He had an otherwise unblemished 23-year police career.
Skuza has said Ternes did not allow her husband to resign and has criticized the investigation for moving too slowly.
Affording Ternes the courtesy of quickly resigning is like rubbing salt in the wound, she said.
“That’s raw with our family, for him to expect to be treated better than he treated my husband,” Skuza said.
She also said the deal approved by the City Commission is “ridiculous.” The agreement approved Monday pays Ternes his current salary through July, a total of nearly $100,000 over about eight months.
“If they (the city) don’t feel he should be there as chief, they should fire him,” Skuza said.
“As a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay the man,” she added.
Though she said she does not wish Ternes harm, the lieutenant’s widow said she doesn’t think “he is a leader that is good for his people.”
In a Sept. 10 letter to the editor sent to The Forum, Skuza first publicized her criticism of the way Ternes handled the investigation of her husband. A few days later, the City Commission decided to appoint a panel to review the department’s leadership and discipline.
Ternes has defended the internal investigation of Skuza, saying it was thorough and fair. Recommendations from three deputy chiefs had suggested that he fire Skuza, though Ternes has said he hadn’t decided whether to do so.
Skuza said there is a lot of anger and hurt over the way officers have been disciplined, and she doesn’t feel Ternes had their best interests in mind.
“They have a lot of healing to do, and I hope this is the first step,” Skuza said.
“The department is in mourning in a lot of ways,” she said, “and losing Jeff was just part of it.”
Deputy Chief David Todd was appointed the interim police chief. Skuza said she hopes Todd learns from Ternes’ mistakes.
“I hope he remembers how he got there – to not follow in Ternes’ footsteps,” she said.
Today is the eight-month anniversary of Jeff Skuza’s death. When asked how she is doing, Sherrie had only one response.
“I have my good days, and I have my bad days.”