Divide won’t soon be bridged

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus

 

Issues stemming from a July drag racing incident that involved a Houston County Sheriff’s deputy and a City of Caledonia police officer won’t soon be forgotten by commissioners of the Houston County Board.

The board requested the presence of Sheriff Doug Ely at their Sept. 18 board meeting, during which time commissioners said they want a say in discipline matters.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski expressed his thoughts with a question. “We are responsible for the people of the county and their money and equipment. If we don’t have a say in it, how do we monitor or maintain the stuff we’re responsible for?”

The sheriff had internally disciplined the deputy involved in the drag racing incident with coaching, much to the discontent of board members.

“If it happened to a 16-year-old boy, and the parents are faced with this big fine, and they say, ‘Can’t we just coach him…’ it’s ludicrous. In the private sector it wouldn’t fly,” Commissioner Jack Miller said.

The sheriff said it wasn’t his job to come and fight with the board and that the collective bargaining agreement with sheriff department employees stipulates that the sheriff has the authority to discipline.

“I understand your concerns with the things that went on. I’m not trying to minimize it, but it was dealt with,” Ely said.

Commissioners insisted that the arrangement as it exists is unbalanced.

“We’ve had a mini series of misuse of county equipment we are responsible for. If I get a ticket it goes in the paper, but if a county deputy breaks the law we don’t know what happened,” Miller said.

Although all present remained collected, an obvious air of frustration permeated the room with one side wanting a say in discipline matters and the other reiterating that they simply won’t get it without changing collective bargaining language.

“I guarantee if it were another sheriff he wouldn’t have come in,” Ely said, adding that he’s willing to continue to talk.

“I asked Tess (Arrick-Kruger) in human resources to take the time this week to get a clarification of where that line is because, I have to be dead honest, I’m not happy with the end if this if this is called the end,” Miller said.

But Arrick-Kruger essentially reaffirmed that the board is beholden to the collective bargaining agreement they signed.

With all the publicity and scuttle butt the matter has received, Miller admitted that he’s sick of saying, “It’s not my call – the sheriff’s elected.”

 

Contact Emily Bialkowski at emily.bialkowski@ecm-inc.com.

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