Erie County Needs a New Sheriff

2 Aug

Tim Howard became Erie County Sheriff in 2005 and he’s up for re-election this year.

Set aside for a moment the fact that vicious cop-killer Ralph “Bucky” Phillips escaped from an Erie County correctional facility using a can opener, and forget the few-too-many mistaken releases of inmates who had no business being released – one of whom committed a rape.

The problem even worse than these is that Howard and his folks don’t think there’s any problem.  The United States Justice Department – with whom Howard’s department refused to cooperate – is appalled by the conditions it observed and learned of in Erie County’s jail facilities.  As the Buffalo News points out, the county rebuts, but doesn’t corroborate.

“We conclude that the conditions of confinement violate the constitutional rights of inmates,” the Justice Department said in a letter to County Executive Chris Collins, who months ago shut off all county cooperation with the probe begun in November 2007, before he took office.

Not only did Erie County refuse to cooperate — on the county attorney’s advice — the county attorney sought out some inmates whom the federal authorities had interviewed in other facilities and asked them to reveal their testimony, the Justice Department revealed.

“Much of what is in the report is based on fiction and not reality,” said County Attorney Cheryl A. Green, who said she conducted those follow-up interviews to assess whether the inmates had been coached and to determine whether their testimony would be accurately presented.

Much“?  What, exactly, is reality and what, exactly is fictionAny reality would constitute a Constitutional violation.  Just because the jails house bad people doesn’t mean you can just do whatever the hell you want to them, or subject them to beatings and other cruelty because you can.

And yes, the county’s cavalier “screw you” attitude to the Justice Department report is almost as appalling as the underlying allegations of abuse.

It wouldn’t be such an insult if it was the first time we were told how bad they were.  From the 2006 Phillips escape report:

The Commission investigation into the escape of Ralph Phillips from the Erie County Correctional Facility revealed serious managerial and executive level operational policy and procedure breakdowns of proportions which rise to the level of willful negligence and professional incompetence.

Use that in a negative ad with ominous music.

Cheektowaga Police Captain John Glascott is running against Howard for Erie County Sheriff. Here’s what he told WNYMedia’s Marc Odien last week:

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The Republicans are so afraid of him that they tried to get him to either drop out of the race or quit his job, alleging that he couldn’t do both at the same time.  That didn’t work, so now Tim Howard is stuck defending the demerits of his tenure.

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30 Responses to “Erie County Needs a New Sheriff”

  1. Ford Beckwith August 2, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    Lets not also forget that the NYS Court System dumps every probation offender into the county jails and makes us pay for them out of county funds. This makes up 65% of inmates in the system and is the major cause of overtime to supervise these scumbags. Then the state and feds turn around and blame Howard and his people when they stand up to the auditors and tell them to give up some cash. This whole article is just another Democratic slander without all the facts in order to get your guy elected. If you want a fair debate on what is really happening at the holding facilities then include all the facts surrounding the circumstances.

  2. Haterade August 2, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    Ford, you are either an idiot or just clueless.

    First … “probation” is a County thing – you must be talking about parole. Get your facts straight. Second, where did you get that bogus 65% figure ? Care to back that one up ? It is simply not true. Once again – get your facts straight.
    Are you really repeating the state and federal conspiracy theory mantra that Howard and his appointed pals cling to ? I wish there really WOULD be a “fair debate” about what is going on in the ECSO, but Howard would never agree – because he has a dismal record. Ask the employees how they feel about the state of the department since this administration took office. Can you tell me any positives of his tenure ? I’ll be waiting.

  3. Haterade August 2, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    Let’s also not forget that in addition to trying to scare the challenger out of the race with some Hatch Act nonsense that has since been ruled on in Glascott’s favor, the incumbent’s camp has been spreading the FALSE rumor that Capt. Glascott is planning to end road patrols. He has publicly stated on several occasions that that is completely untrue. In fact, to the contrary he pledges to regain the accredidation that was lost under Howards watch….

  4. Ford Beckwith August 2, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    Your right it was parole, I was typing to fast

  5. Ford Beckwith August 2, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

    Road Patrols should be ended. The NYS Constitution REQUIRES the NYS Police to patrol and provide police services to any and all municipailities that want the state to do it. No-where does the NYS Constitution that the county has to maintain a police presence anywhere.

  6. Haterade August 3, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    What does the state being slow in reimbursing for the housing of parole violators (of which you have greatly exagerrated the numbers) have to do with the mismanagement of the jails ? What does it have to do with the willful neglect that led to the Phillips escape ? What does it have to do with the rapes, deaths and lawsuits ? This isn’t about overtime costs, this is about bad management and failure to correct mistakes that have been pointed out for years…. however, speaking of the OT costs – those are also largely attributable to poor use of staff and poor scheduling. Stick to something you know a little bit about – and this obviously isn’t it.

  7. Haterade August 3, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    Communities that receive the services of the road patrols generally don’t utilize the departments biggest cost center – the jails. I’ll wager the number of inmates remanded to the Holding Center and Correctional facility from places like Collins, Springville, Alden etc is tiny. They are getting what they pay taxes for. This is getting off topic. The bottom line is that Tim Howard should just ride off into the sunset ….. I’m still waiting for any bright spot in his term.

  8. Dave Allen August 3, 2009 at 12:43 am #

    My guess is that Tim Howard isn’t the problem, only a part of it. All of Erie County’s legislators, party hacks and groupies who have known about and enabled this situation to exist should be ridden out of town on a rail. This has been a team effort.

  9. Mike In WNY August 3, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    Wasn’t the position of the County not outright refusal for the investigation, but to accompany the investigator(s)?

  10. Adam K. August 3, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Ford, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you used to work for the subject of this article? Not surprised to see you defend it.

  11. Adam K. August 3, 2009 at 3:44 am #

    Tim Howard is the worst elected official in the county to any level of government in the last 20 years.

    Worse than Reynolds, Griffin or Jane Woodward
    Worse than Giambra, Rutkowski, or Chuck Swanick

    Just the worst. The evidence is right there of gross incompetence. I can’t believe anyone would vote for him again after this.

  12. Haterade August 3, 2009 at 8:06 am #

    I actually agree with Ford about the state reimbursement aspect, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the horrendous record of this administration. Adam K is 100% spot on with his “worst elected official” point.

    @MikeinWNY – I’ve been told by deputy friends that they accompany all state or federal officials throughout the jails, mainly so they can keep them from talking to people to get the real picture. Once again though, that really is just clouding the bigger issue of all the incredibly incompetent decision making or lack thereof that have been the benchmark of sheriff Howards reign. I’ve met him – nice guy – but completely in over his head and he has surrounded himself with people who aren’t any better. I’m still waiting for someone to point to any real bright spots …

  13. buffaloobserver August 3, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    Howard is a bum. It’s clear he has limited admisistrative skills. It’s also clear that his hired political hacks have even less. He must go. What also must go are the Sheriff road patrols.
    They have outlived their purpose and are useless,and not cost effective with their take home cars.Eliminate the road patrols entirely and channel half that money into running the Holding Center and Wende facility thus increasing manpower and cutting down the cost of overtime.

  14. Mike In WNY August 3, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    mainly so they can keep them from talking to people to get the real picture.

    We’re not talking the mob accompanying police officers on interrogations, we are talking two government agencies.

  15. Haterade August 3, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    @mike in WNY

    Exactly why it is so ridiculous. That’s the point. I’m not 100% positive, but I think they just outright refused and barred them any access at all, and if that’s the case … why ? Howard and Co. love to use the “political agenda” defense whenever they are called out. I can’t tell from your posts – are you actually saying that Hoawrd has done even a fair job as sheriff, or just trying to get clarification on the DOJ report ?

  16. Haterade August 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    @ Buffalo observer – what road patrol deputies have take-home cars ? Those are reserved for the political hacks and possibly a bomb or k-9 cop. Also, as far as the jails , there is plenty of manpower – that isn’t the problem – it’s poor scheduling, made-up jobs and favoritism in days off – in other words poor management -that causes continuous forced OT.

  17. buffaloobserver August 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    @Haterade– unless things have changed, ALL road deputies get to take their patrol cars home. Perhaps manpower isn’t the problem at the jails(that’s what they keep telling us anyway), but I certainly agree that poor management is at the root of most if not all the problems at the Sheriff’s Dept.

  18. Haterade August 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    @Buffaloobserver – Not sure when that policy was in affect, but I can assure you that road deputies (other than “specialties” like the bomb squad and k-9) do not take their vehicles home. On the other hand, all the appointed “chiefs” and upper-level jail mgt. types DO get department vehicles (not marked) that they take home. Search “sheriff Howard” on this site and get the archive of when Howard was explaining why those people deserve to ride on the taxpayer dime … it’s comical.

  19. Ford Beckwith August 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    haterade, The state doesn’t give any money for parole violators. That is the problem, if they were simply slow to pay then i’m sure the issue against Howard could be valid. But when 65% of all the inmates in the county system are state prisoners that the state doesn’t pay for …. well you get what you get. By the way, i got that number from Howard himself when we interviewed him for the IP endorsement a few months ago, so it should be accurate. Lets not forget to mention that the Dems are in control of both the state and fed who are making such a public debacle of all this. I’m absolutely sure that most of their assesment is unfair and is politicle in nature. They want this job back in the hands of a Democrat because hundreds of jobs are up for grabs with this new sheriff exam that is coming out soon for county corrections positions.

  20. Ford Beckwith August 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    political, sorry

  21. Haterade August 4, 2009 at 8:02 am #

    @Ford – that is complete and utter nonsense. I don’t care what sheriff Howard told you … the State reimburses the county for holding parole violators ! Granted – it is at about 1/2 the cost of housing them (allegedly), but it is done without a doubt. There is also NO WAY that 65% of the roughly 1400 prisoners on a daily basis (according to the ECSO website) are parole violators or state ready inmates – NO WAY ! If Howard gave you that info he is either misinformed or just plain lying. All that aside …. explain to me how that in any way, shape or form correlates to the piss-poor management of the jails ? How does that relate to the willful neglect of manning the kitchen with an officer at ECCF that was ORDERED by the state COC and requested by the CO union months prior top Ralph Phillips escaping and killing a trooper ? How does that excuse the shoddy record keeping that has resulted in several mistaken releases, at least one of which resulted in the rape of an innocent woman ? How does that relate to the in-custody deaths of several inamtes – whose survivors the taxpayer will have to pay milliopns to ? How does that relate to the fact that his upper echelon gets paid OT to go to Bills games ? How does that excuse the fact that they shut down the search for Joan Diver to go to a Bills game ? The list goes on and on. Are you seriously telling me that because the state is slow in paying that is the root of all evil ? Wrong. I’m still waiting for any positive meaningful accomplishments that this administration has had over the last 4 years ( hell, make it 8 since he was previously undersheriff !).

  22. Haterade August 4, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    Oh, and how did your endorsement interview with Glascott go ? Was there one ? Lets not fool ourselves here.

    Pigeon hates Lenihan. Pigeon controls IP. No way Lenihan’s candidate was getting the nod. That is the nuts and bolts of it. If you want to pretend that Howard is the victim of some federal and state democratic conspiracy then go ahead. Just make sure your tinfoil hat isn’t too tight. There has never been a more clear – cut case for not re-electing a local politician, period.

  23. Haterade August 4, 2009 at 8:28 am #

    Are my comments in moderation ? I left 2 that were there, now gone.

  24. Hank August 4, 2009 at 8:44 am #

    John—gotcha a bee in the bonnet?
    I understand, as I’ve been there. Sheriff’s across America seem to be in a race to see how fast they can get locked up in their own jail. Similar problems with both sheriff’s I served under in VA. County Sheriff in my county in NC has just undergone a State Bureau of Investigation study of several incidents. He’s a nice guy, law enforcment and jail administration seem OK. But he uses siezed evidence to do work on department jobs and property, allowed the use of an inmate transport van to take SO employees to Charlotte Airport for a trip to Mexico, and the Chief Deputy intervened in a DUI arrest of a local physician whose receptionist is the Chief Deputy’s girlfriend.
    In Old English days, the Shire-reeve was appointed by the King, but now Sheriff’s are elected. All that power apparently goes to nearly all their heads. Not trying to make Howard out to be anything more than he’s shown himself to be, but if you look nationwide, he’s run of the mill really.

  25. Haterade August 4, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    Just to be clear, I’m not insinuating that Tim Howard has committed or is party to any criminal acts – just mis-management and poor decision making .

  26. Zenon August 4, 2009 at 11:53 pm #

    Ford Beckwith: Again, get your facts straight about who is required to provide police services. Nowhere, in the New York State Constitution does it mandate the state police and the services they provide. The only police agency mandated to exist by state constitutional law is the office of Sheriff. State law (not constitutional law) says that the state police exist and have authority to make arrests in new york state. No law mandates the state police provide police services to any county, town or village. They provide patrol services to rural areas, because they choose to do so and the state legislature and governor allow the state police to do so. State law prohibits troopers from patrolling cities, unless authorized by the governor. State municipal law pertaining to counties says that the sheriff is the “conservator of the peace”. Where the sticking point comes in is it does not mandate how many deputies a sheriff must have to “conserve the peace”; only the county legislature can determine staffing levels. In other words there are no staffing mandates for the sheriff. That includes the state police, city, town, or village. The only police department mandated to exist, besides a county sheriff’s office is the City of New York police. That’s because NYC is a class one city. No city, town or village is mandated to have a police department; they exist because the residents want their own police department. Ford, why would you want the state police to do your policing? They are the most expensive police agency in New York State. The base salary of a 5 yr. trooper is approx. $88,000 (new contract). They just got a 14% pay increase! Why would you want an agency patrolling your streets that is managed by the incompetent people in Albany? Think about it. The sheriff offices across the state can provide policing at a third of the price and are controlled by the local people, not a bunch of idiots in Albany!

  27. DJL August 6, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Ford and all others……Take it from myself and others who posted (I get the impression that they also work for Howard). There are two unions that represent Holding Center Deputies (Teamsters) and the Correctional Facility CO’s (CSEA). They hire off of the same exam, they train inthe same academy, they work for the same Sheriff, and they watch the same inmates. But they operate under two different contracts. Howard could complete the merger of the two unions and therefore put employees wherever he needs them, thus reducing O/T.He won’t because he knows that when you force a merger, you have to “dove-tail” in the seniority of the union you are abolishing. That means that his friends and familyDeps might become junior in seniority to the CO’s who would become Dep’s. Howard can’t do that. Although it would save the county millions in BS overtime. FORD – Ask Howard where the correctional facility is? Ask him where the Delta Housing is at ECHC? He is CLUELESS. Place seven people in a line and make three of them employes. He will not be able to pick them out. Glascott wants to put Jail Administrators in charge of the jail, not friends. There are so many problemsa at the jail that are easily fixed and the COC/DOJ will give him a glowing reccomendation. “No cut downknives in all units”. The spineless Capt at ECCF has the knives in his office, but he will not hand them out. So when an inmate decides to hang himself (they also do not always “hang” from the ceiling, sometimes the sit on the floor and hang from their bed) there will be a delay in cutting the sheet down. There are many security issues that can’t be discussed, but many safety issues that can. The ECCF vehicles that have bad brakes, check engine lights and are over 180,000 miles with no scheduled maintenance. There are new vehicles waiting for the Friends and Family (FF) chiefs though.

  28. DJL August 6, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    How about the Dep’s that are forced to work O/T all year, but there are days where the CO’s are overstaffed and send the extras home. How many PA announcements are made with “Anyone wishing an early quit contact the watch commander” as dep’s are working another 8hrs. Every year the Sheriff’s OT busget was 1/3 of what it actually costs. The actual budget has and always will be around 10Million. When OT slows down, the Dep’s just create jobs like suicide watches, transport 1/2 filled vans and buses, transfer inmate close to the shift ending so they can be “forced” into the next shift. Mr. Poloncarz in his audit of the ECHC and ECCF stated that they should stop hiring CO’s as their OT is in check and just hire Dep’s. The Sheriff went and hired 50+ more CO’s just to stick it to the best county watchdog we have. Someone FOIL the top $100K wage earners from the county payroll. How many CO’s are on it? How Many Dep’s? There will be no CO’s, but MANY MANY Dep’s.

  29. DJL August 6, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    Mr. Bedenko keep posting on Howard so we can show the people the true leadership that Glascott will bring to the ECSO.If you need anything, just ask.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Chris Collins and the Dictatorship of Petty Bureaucracy | Artvoice Daily - October 17, 2012

    […] aside and declaring the override “null and void”. Throughout his administration, Chris Collins was fighting the Justice Department, which demanded that the county improve conditions in its jails. 2009 brought a legislative […]

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