Seven months after the infamous November 18 BOCC meeting where Sheriff Shayne Heap called for the resignations of two elected commissioners, accusing them of trying to destroy “the team”, he used two employees to basically demand an increase to his budget. Undersheriff Tony Schiefelbein announced at the June 15 Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) meeting that his office needs an additional $31,000 to meet inmate medical needs through the end of 2016. The sheriff’s office currently receives $147,000 annually from the county general fund to provide inmate medical services from a licensed nurse five days a week, or 32 hours per week.
The undersheriff explained that the department’s contract with Correct Care Solutions (CCS) had expired at the beginning of the year and that currently they are paying for nursing services on a month to month basis. It was unclear if this was a cost saving move. The department is requesting an adjusted budget of $178,000 annually for 24-hour, 7days/wk on-call nursing services.
With five uniformed officers and several more in civilian attire in attendance, Commissioners asked why the subject was brought before this forum and not to a study session first. Schiefelbein explained that was what he was really asking for. During this entire exchange, Sheriff Heap assumed his usual slouched position at the staff table and tended to his county Facebook page posting the latest national postings regarding fallen officers.
Next, Sgt. Frank Bovino and two CCS employees came forward to reiterate the potential for litigation from prisoners due to medical malpractice. They claimed new laws now prohibit nurses from pre-packaging medicines. This means the task of distributing medicines to inmates falls to others during periods when a nurse is not available. Perhaps a legitimate concern, but the real gripe was revealed when Bovino opined that “inmates get better medical care than he can provide his son under Obamacare” (aka Romneycare). Put that comment together with a statement on November 18, 2015 by Dianna Hiatt, County Personnel Benefits Coordinator, that the sheriff’s department has a “deputy who is on Medicaid because his salary is so low he qualifies and can get no other coverage for his family” and one has to wonder about the department’s spending priorities. Hiatt’s comment makes no sense, unless she is referring to a part-time employee. All deputies are paid a base salary and are offered health insurance through the county provider.
The argument for a supplemental budget would have carried more merit had the sheriff and his deputies made an unemotional professional presentation with documented laws, explanations with actual data, such as inmate numbers, types and quantities of medicines dispensed, frequency of medical care afforded, and an explanation of his current budget status. The sheriff refuses to show a line item budget to taxpayers and other elected officials. He really must be required to produce the evidence to justify a 21% increase to this line item.
Consider This: Public information obtained through open records requests reveal that as of May 2016, the Elbert County sheriff’s payroll shows 46 employees. The sheriff possesses 46 vehicles to perform the bulk of daily policing activities (19 sedans, 17 pick-ups and 10 SUVs). Additionally, the sheriff has 3 trucks (one armored), 3 Hummers, 1 ATV, 1 golf cart, 2 Arctic Cat snowmobiles and 11 trailers for a grand total of 67 vehicles. Where ARE all of these vehicles? Neighboring Lincoln County (larger land mass, but much smaller population) polices their county with 10 vehicles, according to their sheriff’s department.
Also consider the findings and recommendations from last year’s auditor regarding the sheriff’s accounting procedures and controls. “The Sheriff’s Office had various checking accounts that were not recognized by the Treasurer or maintained in the financial reporting system.” The county manager’s response: “The Sheriff’s Office maintains these accounts on quick books. They are reconciled monthly by a non-signer of the accounts.” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work for me and it may not be lawful.
Come on, sheriff! Become a professional. Commissioners set your budget. Instead of accusing them of sticking their noses into your business, try respecting their office and the rules governing them. They are the team leaders; start acting like it. Also, please explain why the taxpayers are paying late fees on your county-issued credit cards…also open public records! Reves Percott