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Commission Changes Position;
Agrees That Sheriff Can Hire
Who He Wants As Deputy
by Maricia Mlynek
     

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Calhoun county commission conducted a special meeting last Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Calhoun Courthouse little courtroom to discuss a decision made at its July 6 meeting.

At that meeting, Charles McCroskey was not approved as a deputy sheriff to be located at Calhoun Middle/High School. The position was to be funded by a grant that has yet to be received by the county.

Commissioners said that, due to fiscal responsibility, they would not approve sheriff Allen Parson’s request.

Initially, commissioners said that they did not schedule the meeting to discuss the issues with McCroskey, but to discuss procedural matters.

Once informed by Parsons that McCroskey was present for the meeting, commissioner Bob Weaver said that an executive session may be in order.

Circuit clerk Richard Kirby said that McCroskey was not a county employee, thus the meeting was not a personnel issue, and did not need to be in executive session.

Commissioners asked McCroskey if he would like to waive his rights and allow the meeting to be public.

McCroskey agreed to the stipulation.

Shari Johnson explained the background of the Pro Officer Grant that she initiated in April for CM/HS.

She said that superintendent Roger Propst stated that the school system could not hire a deputy for the school as they did not want to be the fiscal agent.

 She approached the sheriff’s department to request that it be the fiscal agent, but found that it could not serve as the agent and as the supervising office.

This led to a request for the county commission to serve as fiscal agent.

Because it is a reimbursement grant, the commission asked Johnson to meet with prosecuting attorney Shelly DeMarino, and then return to talk the matter over with commissioner Chip Westfall.

Johnson said that she was unsuccessful in trying to talk with Marino or with Tony Morgan. She said, therefore, there was no reason to meet with Westfall, and a meeting was not held.

Commissioners said that, though their questions were not answered, they took a leap of faith and submitted the grant one day late.

From that submission, commissioners said it showed that they supported and approved the grant, but that the issue is not in the support of the grant, but in other matters related to the grant.

The first issue began June 24, when the civil service board met with McCroskey and Parsons to process his reinstatement.

McCroskey was denied testing through the county clerk’s office because of his age. The cut off for the Civil Service test is age 45. McCroskey is 49.

McCroskey had requested the meeting with the Deputy Sheriff Civil Service board to determine if he was eligible to be reinstated as a deputy sheriff for Calhoun County for the purpose of being considered for the position that would be funded if the grant was received by the county.

During the civil service board meeting, Charles McDonald made a motion to reinstate McCroskey and JoAnn Stevens seconded the motion. Loren Howley opposed the motion, stating that she was concerned with the clear letter of the law.

Stevens made an amended motion that McCroskey would only be reinstated if the grant was approved. McDonald seconded the motion and the motion passed with Stevens and McDonald in favor, and Howley opposed.

Parsons reinstated McCroskey to a position that would come with the grant monies.

Parsons said, “I am willing, as sheriff of this county, to take the chance. The money is coming out of my budget to pay him. The state has the cart before the horse . . . I was in the position where I had come up to June 30. Charlie had to be in school July 5 for mandatory training for this position.

“I really didn’t have a choice . . . so hereby appointed Charlie McCroskey. That is why I did what I did. I couldn’t stand by as sheriff of this county knowing that the school needs a pro officer out there and we stand to lose over $200,000 for this county. So, I took the broad shoulders, so to speak. We need this desperately.”

Commissioners said that the reinstatement was still a concern as the prosecuting attorney had given her opinion that McCroskey was not eligible for appointment by reinstatement. No decision was made about the appointment during the commission meeting.

(Later in the day, DeMarino issued a letter to commissioners that read in part: “Upon initially receiving the request to address this matter, I reviewed the statute. Upon further review, I have researched case law and found authority that specifically states . . . ‘County civil service commission had exclusive discretionary authority to reinstate a deputy sheriff . . .’ Therefore, I would respectfully accept and abide by any decision made (by) the Calhoun Civil Service Commission.”)

The second issue discussed was that the grant has not yet been approved. The hire was to be based on the approval of the grant.

“Our budget is hanging by a thread. Six weeks could sink us,” said Westfall.

McCroskey said that it was his understanding that the decision should be at the discretion of the Civil Service board.

“I understand the money thing, if the grant doesn’t go through I don’t have a job,” said McCroskey. “I footed the bill last week for six nights of motel and fed myself at some $800. I know that if the grant doesn’t go through I don’t have a job.”

Commissioners agreed that Parsons has the constitutional right to hire whom he chooses, but if the grant is not received, they had the right to deny the approval of the hire.

The meeting adjourned at 10:12 a.m. The next meeting of the county commission is scheduled Monday, Aug. 17, 9 a.m., in the little courtroom.

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