The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 30, 2013

Retired Conneaut police officer keeps order at ACDJFS

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — A member of the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Patrol has been hired for private duty at the Ashtabula County Department of Job and Family Services’ Donahoe Center.

Steve Gerics, who is retired from the Conneaut Police Department, was hired as a contract employee to provide security four days a week, said Patrick Arcaro, executive director of the department.

Gerics works 8 to 10 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. This week was his first on the job at ACDJFS and Arcaro said it went “great.”

“It has been much better since he’s been here,” Arcaro said.

The executive director is referring to the atmosphere in the lobby, where clients grow grumpy and occasionally become belligerent when they don’t receive their services in a timely fashion or are turned away because of insufficient staffing. Arcaro said the volume of calls for assistance has grown even as he’s had to shrink the size of the department’s workforce.

There were a couple of incidents with irate clients in 2012 that required a call to the sheriff’s department for assistance. Earlier this year, Arcaro told commissioners that he felt a need to have some kind of law enforcement in the lobby on high-traffic mornings. He said employees and the union voiced their concerns after incidents with ornery clients.

Sheriff William Johnson suggested several names to Arcaro when he inquired about the possibility of getting a deputy for the lobby.

“He is providing security,” Arcaro said of Gerics’ duties. “He is there to maintain order in the lobby. He has arrest powers.”

Johnson said Gerics is a member of the sheriff’s patrol and is subcontracted to Job and Family Services. Gerics is armed.

Commissioners on Tuesday raised the question of liability since Gerics carries a weapon. Johnson said that coverage comes under his department, although Gerics’ is paid as a contract employee.

Gerics eventually will be provided a police radio so he can call for transports and assistance. Ashtabula Township has a sheriff’s deputy assigned just to that township.

Arcaro said the money to pay Gerics will come out of the JFS budget, an unfortunate situation because the department is understaffed. However, Arcaro said he must put the safety of his employees and clients first.

“Our number one concern is safety, and I had to make a decision,” Arcaro said.