I find that I must respond to Mr. Trombley’s letter to the editor that ran on Wednesday April 29, 2009. He was correct I did notify 27 employees of my intension of releasing them upon taking office but I only released 23. The former sheriff released four of these prior to me taking office. The decision was based on my 19 years of working experience with these individuals that confirmed my belief that they were not suited to continue their employment with this agency.
Between our seven divisions we currently maintain a fleet of 80 vehicles. I did make a budget request for 20 replacement vehicles in the Fiscal Year 2010’s budget. For each of these vehicles, an unsafe vehicle will be removed from our fleet. These vehicles are only assigned to Deputy Sheriffs and Investigators and or employees who respond from home during critical incidents. These vehicles are used for official business only.
The Georgia State Patrol recently changed its safety policy by replacing vehicles at 150,000 miles instead of every 100,000 miles. Camden County has over 630 square miles to patrol. Many of the sheriff’s office vehicles will exceed 150,000 miles during the first three years. Most of these vehicles will have approximate 250,000 miles on them by the time they reach their 4th year. The request for 20 vehicles is simple. Most vehicles are deemed worn out at some point between three and four years old. If you use the four year replacement schedule and divide that into our 80 vehicle fleet that equates to replacing 20 vehicles per year. It is not just my duty to protect you, but also those who protect you. I will not have deputies responding to emergency calls in worn out vehicles. As promised in my six point plan, I reassigned eight deputies to increase the level of protection on the streets of our county. These reassignments increased the need of eight vehicles to be reassigned.
As we all know the former sheriff’s actions caused the loss of millions of dollars previously used to purchase some of the much needed vehicles. We are diligently working with the U.S. Department of Justice to be able to return to this program.
During my campaign I did criticize the trusty program. I feel it is wrong to have rapist, robbers and murders out in the public supervised by uncertified people who could not prevent these inmates from walking off or harming our citizens. If one person is ever harmed, how do you put a price ticket on that? The bottom line is that any work by an inmate on private property is illegal, no matter how much money it saved.
As promised I reformed the trusty program. To qualify as an inmate worker you cannot be facing a felony or a charge involving violence. All inmates that leave the building will be in a uniform that readily identifies them as an inmate. They will only be supervised by state certified officer.
We currently use these inmates to maintain the grounds of many government owned properties. This work is allowable by law and saves the tax payers money without jeopardizing the public’s safety.
Upon taking office, a security survey revealed that some inmates may have known how to pick the locks on the jail doors. I immediately contacted the county engineer for assistance in inspecting the doors and locks at the jail. We agreed upon a steel plate design that we felt would fix the problem. The plates were under construction when an inmate left the jail. The door was found within minutes, emergency procedures activated, and the inmate was spotted coming over the fence and arrested.
As your Sheriff, I am responsible for the security of the jail. I am proactive. I did identify the problem, and I have taken every measure I know to prevent this from happening again. We will be constantly monitoring the continuously deteriorating conditions of this jail and make such repairs as required to prevent future security problems.
During my campaign, I was asked if I could run the Sheriff’s Office on $6 Million dollars. I was asked this after the former sheriff was just given $6 million dollars for his FY-2009 budget. I answered yes it could be ran on $6 Million dollars.
I took office in the middle of the FY-2009 budget. I inherited a budget that was already in a deficit and plagued with past due invoices that were incurred during the first half of the FY-2009. I am pleased to inform you that we are currently out of the deficit and all prior known bills have been paid. Our current forecast shows we should complete the FY-2009 budget year at or under budget. So, as promised, we did run the FY-2009 budget on $6 million dollars after starting in a deficit. Never did I say I could run the sheriff’s office every year on $6 million dollars.
The law mandates over 600 services the Sheriff must provide. I have only requested a budget that reflects providing the minimum the law requires.
I did do away with the fleet maintenance program at the Camden County Sheriff’s Office. The program cost over $150,000 per year to run. We are currently averaging approximately $6,000 in maintenance per month for the last three months. That prorates out to $72,000 per year which is less than half of the cost of running a full maintenance program ourselves.
Now, I would like to tell Mr. Trombley how I did use a reputable bidding process for our fleet maintenance. The Sheriff’s Office has always bid projects out and awarded contracts “In-House”. I felt there were some who might assume I did this myself, so I removed myself and my agency from the bidding process. I then asked the Camden County Finance Department to advertise in the local newspaper, take bids, and award the fleet maintenance contract. This was done to remove any impropriety from the bid and award process. I have lived and worked in Camden my entire adult life, and know almost every maintenance service provider in this county. So no matter who the county awarded this contract to, someone would make the same accusations.
I want to thank Mr. Trombly for the one positive point he made about my visibility, but I have to be honest with him. I have never worked or been involved with a drug sweep at the Navy base since becoming Sheriff. I am a working Sheriff, and I do respond to calls, but you must have me mistaken with someone else.
We are doing many wonderful things at the Sheriff’s Office. I truly do have an open door. I invite you, the press, and everyone else to come by the office. Ask questions, and look for yourself, then form your own opinions. They say actions speak louder than words. Please come see and report what you have found.
It is truly an honor to serve you as Sheriff, and I thank you for the trust you have placed in me.
Tommy J. Gregory, Sheriff