Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton has refused to remove Fairfax County Sheriff James D. Swinson from his seat on the state Council on Criminal Justice.

State Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan (D-Fairfax) requested last week that Swinson be removed from the council on grounds of misconduct for a statement Swinson made to a Washington Post reporter concerning the death of Donald L. Ferguson, an inmate who died in December after four days in the Fairfax jail.

In the statement, Swinson said, "Going through the door of my jail is not a ticket to eternal life. People have died there before and people will die there again. I don't give a rat's ass if I'm sheriff or if you're sheriff."

Dalton, in a letter sent to Gartlan on Thursday, said, "Assuming all that is alleged to have been said to the reporter is true, I do not concur that the remarks amount to misconduct. Accordingly, I will not take the action you suggested, but neither should it be inferred that I approve of the alleged remarks."

Gartlan said yesterday he was "disappointed" by Dalton's judgement and "concerned" about the extent of the governor's investigation into Swinson's conduct. Gartlan said Dalton's letter left the impression that the governor didn't even ask Swinson if he had made the remarks attributed to him.

"The letter leads me to think the governor's judgement was perhaps a superficial judgment," Gartlan said.