Two weeks after magistrates asked Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley to determine what costs would be involved in closing the jail, there has yet to be a resolution to the situation.
The issue itself was not listed among the action items on the agenda for yesterday’s fiscal court meeting, although two citizens had been expected to speak about it.
Jailer David Moss initially advised the court that he had nothing to submit when it came his turn during department reports but later asked Kelley the status of his investigation.
“I think I owe it to my employees and the public to find out how your study’s going on closing the jail because I hadn’t heard anything from you,” Moss said.
Judge Kelley responded that he had gathered quite a bit of information but is waiting to speak with two officials who went through a jail closing and another who was involved in privatizing a jail.
“I want to do some one-on-one talks with those people and I haven’t had a chance to do that yet,” Kelley said. “I’d say we’re probably 65-70 percent complete on that information.
“I don’t want to rush through it. I want it to be complete as possible,” he said.
“So I just tell my employees that we’re still open?” Moss asked.
“We’re still open,” Judge Kelley said.
Magistrate Glenn Maxey then asked Moss if he’d lost another employee. In recent meetings, the court has expressed concern over employee morale.
When the jailer’s tally of jail turnover was disputed by Magistrate Mike Strunk, the Commonwealth Journal asked for the number from the county personnel office. Between January 2015 and May 3, 2016, a total of 26 employees left the Pulaski County Detention Center. According to Personnel Officer Dawnetta Smiley, 10 of those were terminated and 16 resigned with one transferring departments.
On Tuesday, Moss noted that two employees were resigning to go to work for the Somerset Police Department and another was joining the federal Bureau of Prisons.
“We lose them all the time for that,” Moss said. “You can’t blame anybody for leaving for more money.”
“You can’t blame anyone for taking a better job, that’s for sure,” Maxey agreed.
While one citizen scheduled to speak about the jail did not attend, former deputy jailer Mark Hammond did address the court.
Hammond said he was employed from 2010 until July 1, 2015. He said he was fired for allegedly sleeping on duty — a charge he denied to the court.
While Hammond said no one wants the jail to close, he added that Jailer Moss has done “some good things and some bad things.”
Hammond applauded the updated camera system but criticized Moss’ practice of sending new trainees to the Laurel County Correctional Complex for training.
“When I first started, I was trained by people who had been there [Pulaski County Detention Center] 10 years, 15 years, almost 20 years,” Hammond said. “Why couldn’t the Pulaski County deputies train these people that’s got all the experience? Why did we need to send them over there — wasting taxpayers’ fuel, taxpayers’ dollars, overtime, to do that? I think it’s ridiculous.”
Judge Kelley stopped Hammond from discussing an allegation that the camera system caught “an affair” between two employees who were suspended but not terminated.
“I don’t think this is the right place to talk about private matters inside the jail,” Kelley said.
Hammond then asked to go into closed session but County Attorney Martin Hatfield advised that the court didn’t have any statutory authority to do so.
Hammond then attempted to discuss another incident involving one of the two employees he first mentioned, which Hammond said he personally reported to federal authorities.
“He just now resigned upon his own will just recently,” Hammond said.
“We’re not allowed to discuss in an open forum,” Judge Kelley cautioned. “I realize that you’ve been through some things there, but we’re in an area we don’t need to be as far as discussing personnel in public.”
Hammond concluded by saying he didn’t know why Jailer Moss would want to “get rid of the old employees.”
“They’re just there to do their job and make a living for their family,” Hammond said.
In an April 29 interview, Moss explained to the Commonwealth Journal why new officers are sent to Laurel County.
“They work over there for a week or two before they ever work on our floor because [LCCC deputies are] so trained over there,” he said at that time. “They’re not stuck in the old guard system with us. They go over there and learn the right way.”
Moss also noted that the annual training requirement for deputies recently increased from 16 hours to 24.