Ex-DEA agent with Merced County roots is now sheriff's captain

01/07/2013 7:12 PM

01/08/2013 12:58 AM

There's a new captain on board at the Merced County Sheriff's Department, and management expects the selection to help the crackdown on illegal drugs.

Greg Sullivan, a former assistant special agent in charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, started working for the Sheriff's Department after he was sworn into his new role Monday. He'll work as one of two captains who reports to the undersheriff.

But Sullivan, 54, isn't a stranger to the agency.

In 1978, Sullivan started his career as a deputy coroner while working for Riggs Ambulance Service, he said. It was during that time that he got to know Mark Pazin, now Merced County sheriff.

In 1979, Sullivan began working as a reserve deputy for the sheriff's office. He was hired as a full-time deputy in 1980 and worked with the patrol division until 1984 when he started working as an officer for the Merced Police Department.

Sullivan was hired as a DEA agent in 1985 and worked for the organization for about 28 years, according to the DEA's website.

During that time, he worked in various capacities in cities around the country and overseas. Some of his other DEA assignments took him to Barranquilla, Colombia; San Francisco, the Sacramento and the Spokane, Wash. and spent time in many cities and countries.

Since 2002, his DEA work focused in the Merced area.

After seeing the job opening, Sullivan said he was excited about the possibility of coming back to work in Merced County, where he lives and where he grew up.

"I'm from Merced," he said. "My roots are here -- my family's here."

Undersheriff Tom Cavallero said Sullivan went through two rounds of interviews before he was selected.

Cavallero noted that Sullivan has helped the Sheriff's Department in the past with its drug enforcement efforts.

"He's been very helpful to the county with our efforts as they involve the federal government and our narcotics enforcement projects," Cavallero said.

An interoffice memo sent to all sheriff's personnel Friday explained that Sullivan will oversee the corrections division, court security unit, AB 109 staff, personnel assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and Gang Task Force.

Cavallero also noted that Sullivan will be working with the Merced Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force.

"It's nice having someone with that kind of breathe of knowledge in narcotics, but it's also nice to have someone who has some kind of buy-in in the community," Cavallero said.

With a wide range of experience and a familiarity with Merced County, Sullivan was the best candidate for the job, Cavallero said.

"There was some stiff competition, but his credentials are outstanding and when you consider the drug enforcement part of it, that's a big deal," Cavallero said, adding that Sullivan could be helpful in pursuing future grant opportunities.

There were 13 applicants for the position, said Robert Morris, director of Human Resources for Merced County. Five of those applicants didn't meet the minimum job qualifications and eight applications were forwarded to the Sheriff's Department for interviews.

The pay range for the position is $87,963 to $106,933, Morris said.

Sullivan is taking the place of former Capt. James Buttrey, who retired from the position in August following a scandal involving a female subordinate. She accused Buttrey of retaliating against her when she refused to continue a sexual relationship with him.

The employee, former sheriff's dispatcher Kathy Mathis, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against 40-year-old Buttrey. Buttrey declined to comment to the Sun-Star after he announced his retirement.

His monthly pension totals $3,726, according to the Merced County Employees' Retirement Association.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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