TRIADELPHIA - Candidates for Ohio County sheriff addressed courthouse security, raises for deputies and employee morale at a forum hosted by the Ohio County Deputy Sheriff's Association on Monday.
The event took place at the Blaskovich Center in Triadelphia, and all four sheriff candidates attended - incumbent Pat Butler and John Powell on the Republican ticket and Democrats George Fahey and former sheriff Thomas Burgoyne.
Burgoyne said he is running to "put the smile back on deputies' faces." He took issue with Butler's decision to put GPS systems in cruisers to track deputies' travels - a measure Butler said is saving the department money on fuel costs.
Photo by Joselyn King
Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler, left, a Republican, and Democrat George Fahey attend a forum for sheriff’s candidates Monday night in Triadelphia.
"You have to protect the people. You have to protect the roads," Burgoyne said. "You can't just sit at a corner on Route 88 to save gas. ... I don't want to watch where my men are because I trust them. ... I don't need to mini-manage what they do."
Butler said if deputies have any issue with him, they should address it with him. He also defended his decision to put GPS systems in the cruisers.
"First and foremost, the GPS systems weren't meant to spy on deputies," he said. "The main reason ... was fuel consumption."
Butler said fuel consumption so far this year is significantly less than during the same period a year ago and noted the costs of the GPS system would be recouped in "one year - two at the most."
Fahey said while he would ask county commissioners for money to hire more deputies, he thinks the department should also look to federal resources and grants.
Fahey also believes the economy will pick up when more tax money starts to come into the county as the result of natural gas drilling, and that the families of some drillers will move here and their children will go to local schools.
"If their children are going to our schools, then is there a reason they can't have their (driver's) registration changed?" he asked. "Nobody is going after this. There's a strict guideline. ... They have 30 days in which you must change your out-of-state license."
The county then could collect property taxes from these residents, he continued.
Powell said if elected, he would patrol the streets alongside deputies if needed. He said he favors formation of a community action task force made up of representative of all local law enforcement agencies and promised to work toward getting raises for deputies.
"You want to know where the money comes from?" he asked. "It comes from the citizens of Ohio County ... If we don't get the citizens of Ohio County behind us, they will not provide for us."
He was asked how hard he will fight for deputies raises. "I will be as aggressive as I can be without being belligerent," Powell responded.
Butler and Burgoyne disagreed on the practice of placing deputies on duty in the courtrooms at the City-County Building.
Burgoyne said retired officers could be hired, and that deputies should be out patrolling the streets. Butler responded that not having proper personnel in place if there is an emergency in the court could subject the county to a lawsuit.
Fahey, a former police officer, doesn't think deputies should be called on to escort prisoners. And Powell said the sheriff has to make certain security is provided by deputies where it is needed.