SHERIFF PARSONS SAYS "I STEPPED TO THE PLATE" - Commission Sticks With Decision, Will Not Approve Deputy Pay Until Grant Arrives

(07/17/2009)

During a special Calhoun Commission meeting yesterday, problems surrounding a grant and the hiring of a deputy sheriff to be placed at Calhoun Middle-High School was addressed.

Sheriff Allen Parsons told the commission that "The PRO (Prevention Resource Officer) is desperately needed at Calhoun Middle-High School," saying officers had responded to the school on nine occasions when weapons had been brought onto school property.

Parsons said there are numerous problems with drugs and sex, saying "There is frequent sex in the hallways."

"I stepped forward on this, and I'm behind it 100% ... If we don't do something about this now, something really bad will happen," he said.

The commission, at an earlier meeting, declined to approve a request from Parsons to reinstate Charles McCroskey as a deputy to be placed in the school.

The commission had agreed with grant originator Shari Johnson to consider the hire once a grant was approved by the Division of Criminal Justice.

It has yet to be approved.

Commissioners expressed their concerns regarding a shortfall of county funds, and their role to carefully watch the budget.

A meeting of the Deputy Sheriff's Civil Service Board recommended hiring McCroskey, with board members Mac McDonald and JoAnn Stevens voting for, and Loren Howley voting against.

Howley said her dissenting vote was based on her interpretation of the law, not related to McCroskey personally.

McCroskey told the commissioners the Civil Service Board has leeway to make recommendations in hiring a position, with "rules not etched in stone."

Sheriff Parsons said none of his current deputies wanted the position.

JoAnn Stevens made an amendment during a June 24 meeting that McCroskey would only be reinstated if the grant was approved.

Sheriff Parsons reinstated McCroskey because he is required to take special training, now being offered for the position.

Parsons recently sent McCroskey for the training, otherwise he could not have filled the position, he said.

Shari Johnson, who originated the grant, indicated there are problems with the grant being approved in Charleston, while assuring the commissioners it will be approved.

Commissioners expressed concern with issues raised about the legality of the hiring of McCroskey, including an opinion issued by prosecutor Shelly DeMarino.

DeMarino, first indicated legal problems with McCroskey's hire, but said after a review, she felt his hire met the legal requirements.

The commission took no new action regarding the issue, sticking to their earlier position of not hiring until the grant was approved and the terms of reimbursement being made available.

They said last year a grant received by the Sheriff's Department, had to be reimbursed with $20,000 of taxpayer money because of failure to meet the grant's conditions.

Elected officials have a constitutional right to hire candidates of their choice, even though the commission must approve their hire.

What remains an issue is when officer McCroskey can be put on the county payroll.


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