Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard sparred with Budget Office officials Wednesday over the administration’s 2014 proposed funding of corrections officers and other staff at the Alden Correctional Facility.
“Obviously, our biggest concern is the indication the county executive does not intend to fill the vacancies,” Howard told lawmakers, while attending Day Two of the Legislature’s budget hearings on County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal.
Howard accused the county executive of reneging on an agreement the Sheriff’s Department and the administration made with the federal Justice Department and the state Commission of Correction that calls for hiring 72 additional people in the Jail Management Division by 2015 to address a variety of problems at the jail, including excessive overtime.
At issue is an apparent lack of funding in Poloncarz’s budget for a new group of recruits that the division planned to hire in September 2014.
“We would be short nine corrections officers, a deputy sheriff’s officer, three sergeants and one captain,” Thomas Diina, superintendent of the Jail Management Division.
It would also leave the Sheriff’s Department out of compliance with the Commission of Corrections directive, Howard added.
However, Deputy Budget Director Timothy Callan disputed that claim, noting that there are currently 26 unfilled positions in the jail division. Yet, he said, the division is still in compliance with its agreement with the state, having already added 15 positions in 2012, as well as 30 positions in the 2013 budget, and with plans to add 15 in 2014.
“With 26 vacancies in jail management, as of today, why would we go and add another 12 or 13 to 15 positions to meet the 72 requirement. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s better to do that midyear, if necessary, depending upon vacancy control or the sheriff’s ability to fill positions in jail management,” said Callan.
“We thought it was very prudent to not add the second set of positions because ... the agreement with the Commission of Corrections is that the positions wouldn’t start until September,” he added.
Still, Howard insisted that the county executive’s budget proposal directly contradicts what the administration and the Sheriff’s Department had promised to the state and federal governments.
“If that is the decision of someone else, other than me, so be it. It’s your lie, not mine,” Howard said.
“The reason that we should do this is because we said we were going to do it,” he said, regarding funding for the new round of hires that were planned for September 2014.
Callan and the sheriff also disagreed over whether or not Poloncarz’s budget plan would wind up increasing overtime in the jail division which, Howard said, has been on the decrease since 2012.
Still, Callan said, the jail division management will end the year $2.3 million over budget.
“That doesn’t include a roughly $300,000 projected negative variance in the Sheriff’s Division,” he added