FOP leader criticizes Mahoning County commissioners
By Peter H. Milliken
The president of the union that represents Mahoning County deputy sheriffs accused the county commissioners of neglecting the sheriff’s department’s funding needs.
“Our jail is short-staffed, overcrowded and unconstitutional,” said Sgt. Thomas J. Assion, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141. “You have failed to take any action to remedy our situation,” he told the commissioners Wednesday.
Assion made his remarks with less than a week to go before Tuesday’s Democratic primary, in which Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti is running for re-election, and in which there’s a three-way race for an open county sheriff’s seat.
However, Assion, who supports Jerry Greene for sheriff, made no mention of the election. Sheriff Randall Wellington is not seeking re-election.
Assion said of the deputies: “They are greatly underpaid compared to their peers in law enforcement. They perform the hardest and most dangerous work of all Mahoning County employees.”
With one third of the county jail closed and 23 deputies remaining laid off, “We cannot understand why you consistently fail to properly fund our operations and properly treat our members,” he said.
“Your lack of concern for the safety of this community and for the men and women who provide that safety is beyond belief,” he concluded.
However, John A. McNally IV, chairman of the commissioners, who is not seeking re-election, said the sheriff’s department’s main budget of $14.1 million this year is supplemented with $1.4 million for jail administration and utilities and $1.7 million for jail inmate medical services, all from the county’s general fund.
Those total $17.2 million, which is nearly one third of the county’s $54 million total general fund budget for this year. The general fund is the county’s main operating fund.
“What the commissioners have done this year is what we have normally done for the sheriff’s department,” McNally said.
The $4.4 million general-fund carryover from last year is fully appropriated for such things as unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation costs, professional services, debt service, liability insurance and the county extension, emergency management and soil and water conservation offices, he said.
The commissioners would like to recall laid-off deputies and reopen the jail’s two closed prisoner housing units, which total 100 beds, but they can’t afford to do that now, McNally said.
The commissioners expect the county veterans service commission to return money to the general fund later this year, which typically amounts to $500,000 to $600,000 annually; and that money usually goes to the sheriff’s department, he added.