Jeremy's Notebook

Barry on The Offer

July 24, 2013

steven barryWhile Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry said today that he welcomes a conversation regarding the recent offer from Sheriff David Morgan to retain operations of the county jail until 2014, he’s not sure such conversation will divert the county off its current track.

“I’m open-minded to discussing it,” Barry said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be a tremendous appetite for a lengthy discussion.”

The Escambia County Commission decided recently to take over operation of the county jail. It did so in the context of Sheriff Morgan’s budgetary request and a mandate from the U.S. Department of Justice to address a variety of concerns—such as understaffing and mental health services issues—at the facility.

Interim County Administrator George Touart is assuring the commission that he can appease the DOJ and pull off the jail transfer for $2.6 million or less. The sheriff contends that’s unrealistic.

Firm numbers have yet to materialize insofar as the costs involved with the transfer, but county staff is currently working toward the transition; the county is set to take over the jail at the start of the new fiscal year, in October.

This week, Morgan offered to retain control of the facility for an additional year for $2.6 million. He has said the money would be used to hire four or five mental health professionals and about 40 correctional officers, in an effort to begin addressing the DOJ concerns.

In making the offer, the sheriff also cited the commission’s recent decision to bar Touart from applying for the permanent county administrator position. Morgan has said he would consider reentering negotiations once a permanent administrator was secured next year.

Barry said that he was under the impression that the jail transfer was going according to  plan and schedule, and wanted to speak with the county budget director, attorney and Clerk of Court Pam Childers about the process during this week’s commission meeting.

“I understand thirdhand that it’s going well,” Barry said, “but I want to hear that in an open setting.”

The commission begins Thursday with a 9 a.m. agenda work session, then conducts a public forum at 4:30 p.m. and regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. All meetings are held at the county’s Palafox complex.

  • Jones llc July 25, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Oh my, are you kidding me.

  • Jacqueline July 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Judging from the discussion this morning, the commissioners don’t seem to be interested in changing the transition. Mr. Touart is saying that Oct. 1st won’t be a definite transition date …it may be sooner or later but he doesn’t know yet. Lots of unknowns still. According to the county attorney, they haven’t even received a settlement offer from the DOJ yet to know what they will need to do to address the concerns at the jail.

  • twarted July 25, 2013 at 7:05 am

    the sheriff is throwing a lifeline to the commission – I sure hope they grab it. Anything less from Touart than a very detailed narrative report supported by detailed budgets AND signed off by Pam Childers and Amy Lovoy should not be considered acceptable justification for continuing on the jail turnover initiative. Let the sheriff keep the jail for another year and consider a transfer only if it can be proven that the county can run it more efficiently. Under the current timetable there is not enough time to perform that analysis. You got a do-over on the botched administrator search and you are getting a shot at another one on the jail debacle – don’t blow it.

  • CJ Lewis July 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Another option is for Sheriff Morgan to make himself readily available to give advice if the county’s head of its Department of Corrections has any questions during the next year and beyond.

    Sheriff Morgan seems to think that he holds all the cards here when it is the Commission that has all the money. It seems to have figured out where it is going to find enough money to keep DOJ off its back.

    Even if George Touart went fishing at the end of this week and stayed gone, the other full-time county employees should be able to handle the transition. Change is never easy but in the military we did it all the time realigning capabilities under new command and control structures.

    Assuming the admin changes can be executed in the next nine weeks, a not impossible task, the head of the jail should be able to figure out which new direction to salute effective October 1.

    In the end, the only real issue is who will be most responsive to the Commission – the County Administrator or the Sheriff? This issue is not and should not be about personalities given that new actors are always arriving and leaving the scene.

    As an organizational management issue, it does make sense for all of the County’s corrections functions to be centralized within the Department of Corrections. This action is a type of functional consolidation much like the Library transition.

  • jeeperman July 24, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    “I understand thirdhand that it’s going well,” Barry said, “but I want to hear that in an open setting.”

    He smart……he does not want all of them telling him what he wants to hear and telling the other BOCC members what they want to hear.
    Listen up GT.