The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 29, 2014

Ashtabula city solicitor urges commissioners to provide sufficient funding for sheriff

By STACY MILLBERG - smillberg@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Ashtabula City Solicitor Michael Franklin reached out to Ashtabula County commissioners, Thursday, urging them to re-assess their priorities and provide sufficient funding for the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department.

Franklin sent an e-mail to all three county commissioners outlining his concerns.

Franklin said his concerns about the reductions in operations at the Ashtabula County Jail prompted him to contact the commissioners.

“As I am sure you are aware, the jail is a resource paid for by the tax dollars of all residents of the county, including those in the city it is my privilege to represent as city solicitor,” he wrote in the e-mail. “It is a critical tool used by all the law enforcement agencies in the county.”

Franklin said law enforcement and public safety is an essential function of government and citizens should not be told they will have to make due without it. He said the county is currently experiencing an upsurge in violent crime and “hard” drug trafficking, especially in the city.

“The absence in sufficient jail space to allow law enforcement to move forward with investigations and allow the judiciary to hold people until trial or after conviction will exacerbate the problem,” he said in the e-mail.

Franklin said he knows it is not the commissioners’ intention to give aid and comfort to drug dealers and violent gang members, but by cutting funding to the Sheriff’s Department, that is essentially what is being done.

“I urge you to reassess your priorities and attempt to allocate sufficient monies to the Sheriff to permit him to perform his duties and operate the jail,” the e-mail states.

In response, Commissioner Dan Claypool said the Board of Commissioners shares Franklin’s concerns about any closure or curtailing of law enforcement services at the county level.

Claypool’s e-mail response said the commissioners have no “operational” control over the sheriff’s operations. He reminded Franklin that local government revenues continue to shrink which has an impact on all county and local government operations. He said state funding to Ashtabula County has been cut by more than $1 million.

“We are confident that $5.2 million in appropriations for the Sheriff’s department does not warrant any drastic reduction in services or jail population,” he wrote in the e-mail. “Any declaration to the contrary is purely meant to stir up unnecessary controversy.”

Commissioners cut Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson’s 2014 budget to nearly $120,000 less than that of his 2013 expenditures. Johnson said he will need to reduce the jail population by closing a portion of it as well as make some staffing cuts to stay within the $5.2 million budget.

Claypool could not be reached for comment.