Friday, January 06, 2012

THE JAIL BUSINESS

THE JAIL BUSINESS
by Chrisine Brauer Mueller

Dearborn County appears poised to enter the jail business.

I’m in favor of running a jail in a business-like manner. I am not in favor of having taxpayers fund the growth of a jail business that seems unwilling to do some internal soul searching and remediation of the causes for jail overcrowding.

Decisions surrounding the jail expansion size and funding have become tainted with ethical conflicts of interest- which became alarmingly evident at the Dec 20th Council meeting. Council members who get their paycheck from the sheriff’s dept or prosecutor’s dept claim they have no conflict of interest.

Many years ago Bill Ullrich asked Judge James Humphrey about the legality of running for County Council and remaining employed by the county sheriff’s department. Ullrich reported that Judge Humphrey told him the law did not forbid it. Judge Humphrey, in a previous role as county attorney, would often state that officials were to avoid all PERCEPTIONS of impropriety.

The Council vote Dec 20th was widely perceived as ethically improper. Our state legislators repeatedly get asked to pass a law forbidding a government employee from holding office at the same time as he is employed by that governmental unit. The vote and process for this jail expansion illustrates one good reason to pass this law.

If your boss- the sheriff or prosecutor- wants a new or expanded jail and you vote against it, it is hard to see that your job duties, hours, or paycheck might not be affected. Your well being depends on pleasing your boss. If you are wearing numerous hats in county employment, your many allegiances could be affecting your performance. If you have family also employed by the county, you have to consider their jobs as well, particularly in this economy. These are natural survival and familial instincts. And these instincts will ethically compromise decisions that are to be made for the good of the people.

Despite all public comment at the meeting being against this vote, Liz Morris gave a pre-prepared motion seconded by Maynard Barrett to remove the unanimous consent of Council for spending money in the Riverboat Savings Account 197. Bryan Messmore and Bill Ullrich also voted aye. That account has remained untouched except for unanimous Council consent since 1998 - 13 years. This is the easy money- the low hanging fruit- and a way to avoid going to the taxpayers for the jail expansion funding. These four council members seem to forget this IS our money.

This savings account is the only cushion the county taxpayers have should some catastrophe occur. The doors are now wide open for anyone who can persuade four Council members to spend our savings account.

It is no longer something that would take consensus to insure that the vast majority of the public would approve Council’s choice. Four Council members made a serious mistake, in my opinion. These four set aside the wisdom of their predecessors for expediency.

Voters and taxpayers need to take a look at these four. Three (Ullrich, Messmore, and Barrett) are up for election in 2012. Perhaps then we can send them a message they actually hear.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Concise, well thought out and very persuasive argument. Here, here!

Whether it is a blog, traditional press,or even cave drawings knowledge IS power. I tip my hat to Christine Mueller for keeping the information flowing and for giving Lawrenceburg a, well, public forum.

Anonymous said...

me too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris. They may need a jail update, but they have lost allegiance by trying to use the back door to get what they want. They have brought problems on themselves by venturing beyond their primary job descriptions and pledges. If there were no conflicts of interest, there would be less question.
The conflicts are cast a bad reflection all. Recuse would be the honest thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I second Anon of 9:10 AM. Without question McHenry, Ullrich and Messmore should recuse themselves.

It is unfathomable these men don't see their conflict of interest.

Sadly, for me, this, as well as other recent incidents involving our justice system bring to mind British Lord Acton's famous quote: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Stephanie Libbert said...

Great piece Christine, you articulated precisely what most of the citizens that I have talked to feel. Most were not sure about the jail expansion but when they over turned the unanimous vote procedure to get the money then people started becoming very concerned about the allegiances of the councilmen/woman. It has been quoted by many that they are out for themselves and they are no longer representatives of the citizens of Dearborn County. I only hope that someone decent and honest will step up to the plate and run against them. I believe in Dearborn County we can do better than this, in fact with the economy the way it's going we MUST do better.

James L. Burke said...

Piggybacking off Anon 8:02 is another, and in my opinion, more apt quote:

When you have a concentration of power in a few hands all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. - Acton

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed in Liz, Bill and Bryan. These people need to take an ethics class. I wonder what their parents would say of their actions.

Anonymous said...

We owe Christine a lot for keeping us informed. We have to do our part to let family and friends know what is happening with the conflict of interest and the overriding of controls put in place to prevent dipping into the savings account. This money was to be used for emergencies, not a councilman's employer's pet project.

Anonymous said...

The public has been given no proof that a new jail will provide additional drug / alcohol treatment for those who need it, more contact visits for those with family members in jail, better health care, life / career counseling / education, or perhaps diversions from prison time.

Our local prosecutor seems to be obviously vindictive rather than corrective, jail more only to receive more income from the State, and has made a living of making life even harder for the poor, uneducated, underprivledged, and problematic souls of our County.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 1/12: I completely agree. My heart breaks to see people being treated so unjustly, people's lives being ruined to increase revenue, watching the poor become even poorer. I can't help it that I care. Incarcerating someone and filling up a jail to increase revenue it just plain un-American. I wonder what country he went to law school in? Seems to me he doesn't know the Constitution very well, but seems very well versed with the Communist Manifesto.

Anonymous said...

I hear you people talking about all the bad in your county. Why don't you quit talking about it and do somthing about it !

jb said...

Talking is stage one- you have to alert the public to the problem(s).