Is there a Feud Brewing Between the County Board and the County Sheriff?

Once again The Voice of Freeport was there!

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At last weeks Stephenson County Board Public Property and Safety Committee both board members Jerry Clay(R-Dakota) and Steve Fricke(R-Freeport) had some major concerns about Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders(R-Freeport) management of his facilities. The Voice of Freeport was on hand for the meeting to broadcast it live.

During the earlier portion of the meeting the Sheriff and his Deputy were in attendance. One topic of conversation during that time was the required repairs needed for the roof at the jail. It wasn’t until after the Sheriff left the committee meeting that questions were raised about the Sheriff’s management of the facilities he’s responsible for.

Towards the end of the meeting, after both Sheriff Snyder’s and his Deputy and Jail Administrator Steve Stovall had left, Board Member Jerry Clay said, “He’s managing that jail and I don’t understand why you leave a roof get that bad. Especially if he’s got that kind of money sitting in his budget.” Clay was referencing several hundred thousands dollars in the sheriff’s budget that was allocated towards personnel.

Clay continued, “If he had $320,000 that he turned back over to the county he had the money to do it. The year before that was exactly the same way. The question is do they have mismanagement out there because a manager does not let a roof get that bad. Especially if he has the funds.”

Clay then finished up by saying, “To me he seems to be shifting the blame to the board in the respect that he’s(the Sheriff) saying I’ve been asking for this money for 4 years now. He’s the one that keeps saying he can spend the money any way he wants.”

Afterwards the board members discussed the differences between allocations to the Sheriff’s budget. Budget allocations for payroll can only be used for payroll related items and other allocated items can’t be used for payroll.

Another Republican Board Member, Steve Fricke, then spoke up as well. “Mr. Chairman I have to agree with Mr. Clay. If the Sheriff knows he has those dollars then why doesn’t he come to us. That’s his job. He prides himself on being the man of the building. Then let the man of the building do his job. He has the dollars and then turns them back.”

Fricke then continued, “It’s a simple budget amendment that takes one vote at the county board level. But we have done this for years with this man and now it’s our fault, when it’s his. We need to quit pandering like we’ve done tonight to this man because he doesn’t do his job. Now he’s gone out and he hires a firm to manage his equipment because he doesn’t have smart enough staff to do it.”

As of the writing of this story we’ve yet to receive a response to a phone message or an email requesting comment from Jerry Clay. I did however have a lengthy phone conversation with Steve Fricke about his comments in the meeting.

When provide the opportunity to clarify Mr. Fricke offered the following, “My comments were not at all directed at the deputies. I would rather not have said there was no one smart enough in that department. I just felt that we need to have some accountability. My comments were meant to address maintenance not law enforcement.”

The Chairman of the Committee, Mark Diddens(R-Lena) came out strongly in support of the Sheriff. Diddens gave us the following statement over the phone: “I completely disagree with Clay and Fricke on their comments. We could easily bring that right back on the county board. Someone could’ve said to the Sheriff ‘Why don’t we work this into the budget.’ There’s a time and place to say what was said but it wasn’t while the Sheriff wasn’t in the room.” He continued, “The Sheriff tells us every year how much money he has left in his budget. That’s where the County Board should step in to reallocate it.”

We also asked Diddens what he believed the ultimate solution could be. He replied, “Set aside more money for property repair and maintenance and shrink the operations budget.”

We left a voicemail directly with Sheriff David Snyder’s and sent an email asking for comment but haven’t received a response as of this writing.

Carl Utt is a newly minted citizen journalist and one of the founders of The Voice of Freeport and Progressive Vision Media LLC