By PETER H. MILLIKEN
If Mahoning County deputy sheriffs who guard the county courthouse door are replaced by outside security personnel, the deputies’ union will file a grievance, the deputies’ union president said.
Sgt. Thomas J. Assion, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, which represents the deputies, said screening of people and bags entering the courthouse is deputies’ work.
“It should not be farmed out to anybody else. That is the work of deputy sheriffs of Mahoning County. To farm it out is a violation of our contract. It’s called contracting-out or the privatization of our duties,” Assion said.
He said that position was the consensus expressed by deputies attending an FOP meeting Wednesday.
Assion was responding to a proposal discussed by county commissioners under which deputies would be reassigned from the courthouse door to the county jail or to escort inmates to court; and outside guards, such as retired police officers, would guard the courthouse door.
The proposal is similar to what occurs at the Youngstown City Hall, police station and municipal court, where retired Youngstown Police Capt. Michael Vodilko supervises retired city police officers and current and former law-enforcement officers who screen people entering those facilities.
“I would think there are union contractual problems,” Sheriff Randall Wellington said of the proposed county courthouse door-security change.
Wellington said he wasn’t familiar with details of the proposal, which he said he first heard from county Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti about 45 days ago in a commissioners staff meeting.
Rimedio-Righetti said she merely asked the sheriff about potential cost savings if retired police officers could staff the courthouse door, and the sheriff said he’d look into the matter. “We were brainstorming,” she said. “Nothing’s been decided on this.
“I don’t know what the cost savings would be, or if there would be any cost savings,” Rimedio-Righetti said. “You can’t do anything until you run a cost analysis on it,” she said, adding that no such analysis has been performed.
Probate Judge Mark Belinky, who is the presiding judge of the county common-pleas court, said he’d heard rumors about the proposed change, but the proposed switch hasn’t been formally brought before the judges, and the judges have never discussed it as a group.
Wellington said the common-pleas court judges frequently compliment him on the overall performance of his deputies at the courthouse.
John A. McNally IV, chairman of the county commissioners, said he could not provide an estimate of how much money the proposed courthouse door-security change might save the county and that the proposal has only been discussed informally.
“I think the commissioners believe that everything should be on the table to make sure that the jail is staffed appropriately,” McNally said. “The commissioners’ biggest concern is making sure that the jail is staffed properly and that our deputies are safe.”
McNally and Righetti said they weren’t sure whether a change at the courthouse door would result in the layoff of any more deputies.
Currently, the sheriff has 204 deputies working and 39 on layoff due to budget constraints.