MIAMI — The uncomfortable saga continues in Ottawa County between the commissioners and Sheriff Jeremy Floyd over the sheriff’s budget and the woes that have been associated with it in the last year and a half.
In an effort to clear up confusion, Floyd announced he will hold a non-partisan town hall-style meeting to discuss the budget and other related county issues on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. at Grace Church, 130 A NE in Miami.
The public is invited.
The sheriff’s budget issues began in earnest after it was determined that he overspent his 2017/2018 fiscal year budget by over $380,000, causing enough concern on the part of county officials that a special operational audit was approved. The results of that audit are due out soon.
The situation, while tense for some time, escalated on Dec. 23 after commissioners voted to hold the sheriff personally financially responsible for any future budget overages his office incurs.
After that meeting, the issues were posted on social media and the lines became somewhat blurred.
“It’s going to be nice and calm. It’s not going to be a ‘he said, she said’ type deal,” Floyd said of the meeting. “I’m going to do a presentation on the budget because I want to present what is important that the people should know. Then we can have a Q&A panel. And since it will be in a church, hopefully we can keep it clean.”
After cuts of $400,000 in his payroll budget required reducing staff over the last year, the sheriff’s office is now down to only six jailers, four deputies, two dispatchers, one detective, and two full time and two part-time desk clerks, according to Floyd.
This means they have only one deputy to cover the entire county at any given time.
“When you go back several years and look at the budget as a whole, at the funding and how the sheriff’s office actually runs and operates, you can see what I’m up against as far as what the state or the constitution requires of me about being a constitutional officer and giving the people the service they deserve,” Floyd said.
“It’s hard to change something that’s been in place for many years. My biggest concern is trying to get them (the commissioners) to understand what I’m obligated to do and what the people of this county deserve — what we need to do to move forward. That’s important to me because it needs to be adequately funded. When looking at staffing levels, we need to have more than one deputy per shift, and we need to have more than two detention deputies in the jail. That’s the problem I’m up against.”
Floyd said his payroll has been depleted to hardly anything, to the point that it’s almost impossible to maintain and operate.
“I use social media, the newspaper, whatever, to let the people know what I’m up against and what needs to happen to make things right. “It bothers me not only as sheriff, but also as a taxpayer. If I were just a member of the community and not sheriff, I would still be saying we need more adequate coverage,” Floyd said.
Statistictically, 2.5 law enforcement officers are recommended for every 1,000 people, according to Floyd, who also said the City of Miami has 30 commissioned police officers for a city of 13,000 people.
“And if you take away all the municipalities that have their own police departments, I think it would be a safe number to say that leaves anywhere from 10,000 to 13,000 people in the county as far as population. And that’s not counting people traveling through, or attending college here, or coming and visiting one of the casinos. On the safe side let’s say 12,000 people - that would require 25 to 30 deputies to provide adequate coverage for, using the national statistics,” Floyd said.
“It’s all about transparency, who is responsible for what, and what needs to happen to make the sheriff’s office move forward and be proactive and a professional agency like we are and like the people deserve.
“It’s going to be a fight, because, like the old saying, ‘That’s not how we done it.’ The true saying is, ‘I understand that, and I understand county as a whole, but at the same time we gotta do what’s right,’” Floyd said.
When asked about the continuing situation now being played out in social media, District 3 Commissioner Russell Earls said “I don’t do Facebook, but I’ve been told there are some — threats — on there. That’s very inappropriate, for starters. That’s just not how you conduct yourself. I’ve had a couple of friends also call to tell me what’s being said on social media. It gives all of us kind of a black eye.
“We have been in touch with the state auditor’s office and we look to receive the sheriff’s office audit results within a week. That’s what the commissioners have been waiting on and why we haven’t gotten involved in the rhetoric. Once we receive the audit we will know how to proceed thereafter,” Earls said.