Virginia state Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan (D-Fairfax) called today for the dismissal of Fairfax County Sheriff James D. Swinson from the state Council on Criminal Justice for "misconduct" in office.
In a letter to Gov. John N. Dalton, Gartlan said Swinson's "gross insensitivity" to the death of a Gum Springs resident after improper treatment for alcohol withdrawal in the county jail that the sheriff runs is grounds for dismissal from the council.
"... The behavior of Sheriff Swinson... amounts to 'misconduct' within the meaning" of Virginia law that authorizes the governor "to remove from office a person appointed to bodies such as the Council on Criminal Justice," Gartlan wrote.
Swinson, who could not be reached for comment on Gartlan's statement, is one of 12 members of the state council, an agency that coordinates and approves local requests for federal aid for police and court projects. Swinson has been appointed by Dalton to a four-year-term on the council ending in 1981.
The Fairfax senator, whose district includes Gum Springs, the county's largest predominantly black community, cited statements by the sheriff to a Washington Post reporter as the reason Swinson should be dismissed.
The sheriff said his jail's treatment of inmate Donald L. Ferguson, 28, was wrong. However, he said prisoner's death has been "blown out of proportion.
"Going through the door of my jail is not a ticket to eternal life," Swinson said. "People have died there before and people will die there again. It doesn't make a rat's ass if I'm sheriff or if you're sheriff."
Ferguson died at Western State Hospital in Staunton after being held in the jail in December. Swinson said a jail medic had given the young construction worker an extra injection of Valium without recording the treatment and had failed to give him a prescribed injection of vitamin B-1.
Ferguson was the third inmate in the past six months to die after confinement in the jail, whose management by Swinson has caused much controversy.
A spokesman for Dalton said the governor will reply to Gartlan by letter, but will not comment on the issue before then.