Thursday, December 15, 2011

Conflicts of Interest Involved in the County Jail Expansion Decisions

Conflicts of Interest Involved in the County Jail Expansion Decisions

There is a group in Dearborn County who believe we require a new, expanded and expensive law enforcement center to address their perceived rising crime rate trend in the county. In rough numbers the object of their desire requires a capital expenditure of $20 million and an ongoing annual operating expenditure in excess of $1 million from the taxpayers.

There is another group who feel that misguided and overzealous law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial practices are creating our inordinate criminal statistics vs. other Indiana counties. They feel policy reform is the answer to perceived jail overcrowding.

Whose argument has more merit is nowhere as interesting as the methods employed by the jail proponents to advance their dream.

We're in a lousy economy with lots of grief and little relief on the horizon. All Dearborn County citizens are hurting heavily. There is no way in hell an expansion of Dearborn County law enforcement at a time like this would be favored by the voters.

Jail proponents, therefore, knew without a doubt they had no way of achieving their dream without depriving the taxpayers of any involvement.

Quandary? Indiana state law guarantees that projects of this magnitude must be approved by the voters. Solution. Break down the project into two or three smaller pieces that only have to be approved by two commissioners and four county council members to succeed.

Thus, on November 1st, two of the three county commissioners voted to move the first downsized $9-10 million project forward and approve county council to explore financing alternatives. Commissioner Jeff Hughes bravely voted nay as he felt the people deserved a say in the process. Kudoes to Commissioner Hughes. Commissioner Tom Orschell voted aye. The deciding aye vote was cast by Dearborn County Detective Shane McHenry, full time employee of Dearborn County Sheriff Michael Kreinhop in his part time role as Dearborn County Commissioner.

It's interesting to note that Tom Orschell, when elected commissioner, immediately resigned from the county highway department so as to avoid any image of bias or impropriety. Commissioner Shane McHenry seems to suffer no similar concerns when it comes to his employers new jail?

The saga continues in the County Council where the jail proponents have targeted a $15 million Riverboat Savings Account set up at the beginning of the boat era. Council at that time hoped some money from the casino windfall could be secured from the temptation of future councils to spend it, except in the most dire and deserving of instances. They ensured this by requiring a unanimous vote by all seven council members.

Quandary. The jail proponents don't have all seven council members favoring the project. Solution. Attack the legality of the previous councils decisions, reduce the number of votes to grab the money to something less restrictive, such as the number of council members in favor. These shenanigans would be funny if the matter at hand wasn't so serious.

These discussions continue in County Council. It would be remiss and unfair to Commissioner McHenry not to also mention that Dearborn County Sgt. Bill Ullrich, full time employee of Dearborn County Sheriff Mike Kreinhop is also part time County Councilman at large, Bill Ullrich, involved in the acquisition of the financing.

You should be outraged when a project that Indiana law mandates be approved by you is so painstakingly massaged to prevent your involvement. You should be ethically concerned when two of the only six people now required to approve the $10-20 million burden on the taxpayers are so closely bound to the recipient and beneficiary of the funding. How do the commissioners and county council's attorneys possibly justify this blatant conflict of interest and why haven't they required McHenry and Ullrich to recuse themselves from any and all aspects of this project?

However you feel, discussions may continue at the next County Council meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, December 20th at 6:30pm in the County Administration Building. How concerned are you?

Chet Wolgamot
Manchester Twp.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Hughes feels bad because he blew a big wad of money on the Vieste project. We got nothing out of that debacle...And what about Hughes wasting time and money on his "real property rights" suggestion? Or the money he wasted on other high dollar projects? Darrell Sears comes to mind of more money he wasted for the county.

$$$$ said...

i think its what he seen happen on randall ave...what a waste of tax money.

Taxpayer said...

This is not whether or not Hughes wasted money in the past. He is right on THIS issue and in THIS case he is trying to save our tax dollars while the other two commissioners want to spend it, and leave we the taxpayers out of the loop. Conflict of interest is a huge issue all over this county. We the taxpayers need to demand that McHenry and Ullrich recuse themselves and their votes should remain invalid. And then have a re-vote. Thanks Chet for your spot on analysis and thank you for articulating it so well.

Anonymous said...

Chet may be correct in this one instance...I personally would not give Hughes "credit" for anything. Go to a meeting and witness for yourself.

Anonymous said...

This is why some people who comment here are laughingstocks, and why the credibility of this forum is compromised. Whoever it is that blasts Hughes for everything and "refuses to give him credit for anything," even on the topic of the jail which Hughes opposes, needs to get a life. However, the conflict-of-interest debate is a valid one, and that is what we are supposed to be talking about here.

inside knowledge said...

Hughes and Brewington have something in common- they both know about the INSIDE workings of the justice system and jail.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chet. Very informative. Very persuasive. Very nicely written arguement.

Anonymous said...

some one else could speek on that too inside justice system....

Anonymous said...

A simple way to stop jail overcrowding, which is inhumane to keep so many people in holding cells for weeks on end, is to stop issuing $500 cash bonds for misdemeanor charges.