New jail administrator to report to commission

File photo Curry County Detention Officer Cody Longenecker operates cell doors Tuesday and monitors cameras at the Curry County Detention Center from within the master control room.

Robin Fornoff

Whoever is picked as Curry County’s new jail administrator will report directly to county commissioners, not County Manager Lance Pyle, according to commission Chairman Caleb Chandler.

Chandler said the commission authorized Pyle and County Attorney Stephen Doerr on Tuesday to begin negotiations with two candidates — retired Ohio Sheriff Gerry D. Billy and Michael D. Williams, a retired chief for the Yakima County, Wash., Department of Corrections.

Billy is the commission’s first choice for the job, said Commissioner Wendell Bostwick.

Regardless, said Chandler, the offer is a contract working directly for the county commission. Pyle will not be supervising the new administrator, Chandler said Wednesday.

“It’s a different arrangement than we’ve had in the past,” Chandler said, “but the commission has been very impressed with their (the candidates) experience and their work record.

“We think this is the best way for an administrator with their experience to operate and do the best job for the county,” Chandler said.

Bostwick and Commissioner Frank Blackburn stressed while it is a change, the new arrangement isn’t a no-confidence vote against Pyle.

“Most certainly not,” said Bostwick. “We and everybody else down there knows he (Pyle) works … a 14-hour day is probably a short day for him. We’re trying to find some relief there.”

Bostwick said with the salary being offered — $68,259 to $85,324 — and the backgrounds of either candidate, commissioners felt it was best to let the new administrator concentrate on running the jail and Pyle can concentrate on managing the rest of the county’s business.

“When you’re going to pay a guy $80,000-plus,” said Bostwick, “why not let him run the jail.”

Bostwick and Chandler said Pyle will still be in charge of personnel and budgeting issues at the jail. But day-to-day operations at the jail and all policy changes will be handled by the new jail administrator, who reports directly to commissioners.

“It sounds like a major change, but I don’t see it that way,” said Blackburn. “I don’t see any difference. If it’s a personnel or budget issue … (the new administrator) is still going to have to go through the county manager.”

Commissioner Dan Stoddard called the change a “no-brainer.”

“What has the public asked for?” Stoddard said. “To change what we have been doing. The definition of insanity is to just keep doing the same thing over and over again.”

Stoddard noted the last round of firings — four jail personnel — after the latest escape Nov. 13.

“We’ve fired people in every incident and we’ve fired people in between and has that worked for us?” Stoddard said, answering his own question. “No.

“We can’t have a county manager who doesn’t know anything about running a jail overseeing a professional in that field. This will give that person (the new administrator) the opportunity to do their best job and that’s what we will have hired him to do.”

Pyle said he had no concerns about the change, adding, “I’m here to work with the commission.

“We have two excellent candidates who, either one of whom will bring a lot to the table at Curry County,” Pyle said.

Pyle said either candidate will bring lots of experience and “that’s how it needs to be … just let them run the facility.”