By: Susan Daniels
An enthusiastic crowd greeted Second Amendment supporter Sheriff Richard Mack who came to Geauga County Saturday night. Sheriff Mack, former sheriff of Graham Co., AZ, appeared on behalf of Republican sheriff primary candidate Jimmy Lee Holden, who has forty-one years of law enforcement experience and a serious concern about the opioid crises that is encompassing our county. Holden’s wife, Donna, also in law enforcement, is a Lt. with Euclid Police Dept., and is the first woman there to hold that position.
Sheriff Mack is best known for a successful lawsuit he brought against the U.S. government’s Clinton Administration to intercede with portions of the Brady Bill that violated the Constitution regarding the Second Amendment.
Sheriff Mack is Founder and President of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, to which Jimmy Lee Holden belongs. Sheriff Mack currently is teaching history and the Constitution in a charter school in AZ and is lecturing on the need for Constitutional sheriffs.
Sheriff Mack spoke at length about the need for a Constitutional sheriff in Geauga County and acknowledged that Holden would be a great Constitutional sheriff.
The Geauga County sheriff’s office has been passed along like a fiefdom since 2002. There hasn’t been a contender for the office since then and it’s long overdue to remove the “good old boys” who treat the office and the money as their own.
Candidate Holden promises to support county gun rights; initiate drug enforcement, which has been ineffective; encourage criminal investigations by the sheriff’s department and remedy the lack of community engagement by the current sheriff. He said Geauga County is the only county without a drug task force, which he will put into place.
Holden said that he was told by resident’s that they reported to deputies the location of drug houses and the deputies had no interest in the information.
The current sheriff brags that the Safety Center, built in 2005, has been paid off in full but neglects to mention that it happened in 2014 and he didn’t take office until 2016. Holden also claims the sheriff is undercharging for the price of holding prisoners and the county could earn a significant amount of money if they prices were raised to that of neighboring jails.
Most importantly, Holden said he will actually show up for work. The current sheriff is also a full-time fire chief and is not always available at either job, although both pay him, with 32% extra benefits as sheriff. Holden says of the many places he has spoken, people didn’t even know the name of the current sheriff.
A recent report by the county auditor’s office showed that out of the first twenty-two highest paid employees working in Geauga County, thirteen positions were held by some of the 167 employees currently working for the, sheriff according to the Auditor. The listed employees, with their 32% benefits added, are paid in excess of $100,000/yr. Absolutely outrageous. How often do you see a Deputy Sheriff’s car on the road?
Holden pointed out that Sheriff Hildenbrand is a member of the Geauga Automatic Data Processing Board (ADP), which oversees the spending of county money. He was a member, with Prosecutor James Flaiz, when the embezzlement of $2.4 million from the Auditor’s office was occurring. Neither noticed although Flaiz was alerted twenty-six times, starting in June 2014 by a county employee. He then feigned ignorance until he was finally forced into action in September 2017. How much money was stolen during that period of time? The forensic accountant company hired to try to sort out the mess charged $164,000 (and still don’t know the exact amount of money missing) and legals fees exceed $100,000.
The current sheriff’s annual salary budget exceeds $11 million but, despite that, the sheriff added thirty (30) employees in just four years as sheriff. He has deputies who are not commissioned, which means they cannot make an arrest, turn on their vehicle lights or even write a traffic ticket. A large number are not physically fit and couldn’t pass a physical if necessary, including the sheriff. Luckily for them, the sheriff let’s them treat county cars as there own personal cars, while we pay for their gas.
An attempt to find out who is spending money using credit cards given to fifteen employees of the sheriff’s department a year ago by the commissioners has gone unanswered. That is a violation of the OH Public Records Law and will be reported to the OH Court of Claims.
It’s time to drain the swamp in Geauga County and we need to start with the Sheriff’s Department. The old boy’s network has gone on long enough and we can start rehabilitating our county by electing a new sheriff.