The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

February 1, 2010

Sheriff loses 27 employees

He sees return to Old West lawlessness with only one cruiser on road in county

Today will be the last day of work for 27 Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department employees who have been laid off as a result of the county’s dire financial crisis.

Sheriff William Johnson sent five-day notices to the unions Friday in anticipation of having his budget slashed by 20 percent. The Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners, in a work session Monday, tentatively committed $4 million to the sheriff this year.

Johnson said that, effective Wednesday, there will be just one car, manned by two deputies, available to cover 27 townships and 720 square miles. The car will be based in Jefferson. For some areas of the county, it could be a wait of up to 45 minutes just for the deputy to arrive.

With the threat of the siren wailing in the distance removed from the equation, Johnson warned that an Old West kind of lawlessness could develop. Priority will be given to calls of crimes in progress.

“In progress serious (calls), we are going to respond,” Johnson said, explaining the scope of the department’s road operation after today.

Examples would be a domestic disturbance, assault, suicide or burglary in progress, but Johnson said citizens who call in a burglary, civil dispute or simple assault after the fact will be put on a waiting list. He said it could take a couple of days or longer to have a report made, or the caller may be asked to come into the department to file the report.

“When we get to it, we get to it,” Johnson said.

The sheriff cut 16 road deputies, eight corrections officers, two dispatchers and one evidence person in order to reduce his spending by $1 million from last year’s levels. He said the affected employees will be paid for their time worked in the current pay period, then be paid off on their accrued benefit time in the next pay. Because the county is self-insured on its unemployment, a large chunk of Johnson’s budget will have to go to pay those benefits.

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