MIAMI – A large crowd was on hand at Grace Church on A Street in Miami Thursday evening where people on both sides of the issues came to seek clarity and a resolution to the ongoing feud between the sheriff and the Ottawa County commissioners.
The confusion stems from the continuing dispute about the funding the sheriff’s office receives, with Floyd saying his office isn’t properly funded and has been handed budget cuts in the amount of $400,000, causing layoffs, and the commissioners saying the sheriff’s budget has more funding this year than it has in the history of past sheriffs.
Things came to a head after commissioners recently decided to hold Floyd personally responsible for any future budget overages. He voiced his concerns in the press and on social media, saying he fears for the public’s safety because he only has one deputy per shift to cover the entire county and advised the public that there was reason for concern.
Floyd included in his opening presentation at Thursday’s meeting the importance of valuing the office in which he serves and its statutes, the authority of the powers that be, the rules outlined in the 2015 sheriff’s handbook, a training program on the OSU Extension website, and the issues he inherited when he first took office.
“This cannot continue,” was noted on one of the slides in Floyd’s presentation regarding the conditions he currently works under.
“We put other expenditures above constitutional responsibilities. It appears that the county has been doing this for years. Changes must be made immediately even if it includes revising the budget. If the budget is done right and according to law it would never have gotten this far,” Floyd said.
A representative with Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s office stood up and said she wanted those present to know that Ottawa County isn’t the only county dealing with issues like these.
According to county records, in 1997 when the jail was built, half a penny of a full penny sales tax approved was to be retained to operate the jail and the field division, which alone brings in approximately $1.2 million a year to the sheriff’s office and cannot be diverted elsewhere.
That is in addition to what the county kicks in from the general fund, approximately $400,000 this fiscal year, according to District 3 Commissioner Russell Earls, who went on to say that the sheriff’s office is funded at a higher rate each year, but that every county office has to “live within its means and not overspend” in previous comments.
According to Earls, every penny of the half-cent sales goes to the sheriff and the jail, which brings Floyd’s total budget to $2.7 million.
In Earls’ earlier comments, he said the county also has a large tribal police presence and nine volunteer reserve deputies to patrol roads, which helps fill the need due to the sheriff’s office having to make recent personnel cuts due to the budget issues.
One question that came up was if citizens of Ottawa County were going to have to pay higher taxes to fund the budget overages, Floyd said “no.”
Another attendee then asked if a grand jury should be convened to find out what is really going on.
Floyd said, “This is not a liability to the taxpayers.”
The county is currently waiting on the results of an investigative audit being conducted on the sheriff’s records by the state auditor’s office and will know how to proceed on the issues once those results are received, according to Earls.
The audit was approved after the sheriff’s budget issues began and it was determined that Floyd overspent his 2017/2018 fiscal year budget by approximately $380,000.
It was noted last week by District Attorney Kenny Wright that the sheriff has been coming in pretty close on his budget lately and is making steady improvement.
With having certain things line itemed by the excise board, it removed the sheriff’s ability to decide how to spend some of the budgeted money, according to Wright.
He went on to say that it has caused the sheriff some problems, but has served to keep him from sinking because of the payroll issues.