Bethel Twp. Trustees Don Minton and Dave Phares during the township meeting with Sheriff Kelly

Bethel Township Trustees held a special work session on Aug. 2 where they met with Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly to discuss an “extra-duty” law enforcement contract he recently proposed to them.

Kelly explained to the trustees how accepting the contract will modify the way Bethel Township’s extra-duty law enforcement jobs will be assigned in the future.

According to the trustees, this marks the first time Sheriff Kelly has presented the township with any kind of extra-duty law enforcement contract. The township currently contracts with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office for a full-time deputy dedicated to serving just Bethel Township. Deputy Alan Cox currently serves in that position.

Trustee Donald Minton started the discussion by saying, “A few weeks ago (the trustees) received a paper and I think we were all taken aback by it, especially since we sat and talked in this very room a year ago and none of it was discussed...We were making such great grounds (recently) doing the (Proactive Enforcement) Blitz. Then all of a sudden it just kind of went away. I’ve had some people ask what’s going on...but I had no answer for them because I was hoping we would be discussing it tonight.”

According to Sheriff Kelly, the extra-duty contract he presented to the trustees addresses the Sheriff’s Office’s main concerns of accounting for where his deputies are located when they are working extra-duty jobs, as well as ensuring deputies get a fair chance to work those assignments.

In addition to those concerns, Sheriff Kelly said he was just recently made aware that the township has only been paying $10.00 an hour for the patrol cars it uses. According to Kelly, the price should have been increased to $15.00 an hour quite some time ago. Bethel Township Fiscal Officer, Melanie Cochran, said she never received anything from the Sheriff’s Office telling her of the price change. Cochran asked for information so she could make the necessary payment adjustments to reflect the patrol car price increase.

Kelly explained the issue with his personnel’s whereabouts wasn’t discovered until the Sheriff’s Office recently prepared to be audited.

“I have a saying, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’” says Kelly, “And if you don’t know about it, you can’t fix it...and (the Sheriff’s Office) found out we have deputies working extra-duty jobs we didn’t even know about. (Deputies) were working Bingo, they were working security, they were in uniform driving county cars...and, you know, (when) they go out and do something, we have the liability.”

Sheriff Kelly says the way Bethel Township’s extra-duty assignments have been offered in the past is no longer acceptable.

Before the contract was presented, Bethel Township’s full-time deputy coordinated the hours for the township’s extra-duty work. The two very successful “Proactive Enforcement Blitzes” that recently took place in Bethel Township were coordinated by Township Deputy Cox.

If the trustees sign the contract as presented to them, each extra-duty assignment will be posted in good faith at the Sheriff’s Office for 24 hours. However, Township Deputy Cox will continue to get the first opportunity to work any of those extra assignments

According to Kelly, posting the jobs at the Sheriff’s Office will cut down on the many Union-related grievances his office has handled recently, thereby saving the Sheriff’s Office money.

Kelly explains that grievances have been costing the Sheriff’s Office thousands of dollars in arbitration.

The trustees voiced concerns that by posting its extra jobs at the Sheriff’s Office, the deputies who have been working out so well for the township will no longer be available to cover its extra-duty assignments since the jobs would be doled out by seniority.

Kelly agreed that he could not promise that the trustees’ preferred deputies would get first pick to work in Bethel Township, but assured the trustees that if they were not satisfied with a deputy’s work, they could request that the deputy no longer work for the them.

The trustees countered that such an arrangement means it could take a long time to get the deputies they wanted, possibly making any future Blitzes less successful until the trustees “weeded out” ineffective deputies. The trustees expressed their belief that such delays are also unfair to Bethel Township’s residents since the township’s Police Levy Fund pays for extra-duty work performed within the area.

The contract also gives Sheriff Kelly the right to make the final decision regarding who works extra-duty in Bethel Township.

Sheriff Kelly explained that its reputation makes it is difficult to get deputies to work in Bethel Township, even at the higher rate of pay the township offers. Trustee Nancy Brown agreed that it has traditionally been difficult to get extra coverage in the area, which is why the township offers a higher rate of pay in order to get its extra-duty jobs covered in order to improve public safety.

Deputies who work extra-duty in Bethel Township make $35.00 an hour, but receive a 1099-Misc. IRS tax form at the end of the year for any monies made working those jobs.

Sheriff Kelly further explains that, although there is a lot of overtime work available for his deputies to do, he sometimes doesn’t have enough deputies to cover the assignments, or has problems getting deputies to step up and take the jobs.

“We have to order people...go out and beat on their come to work. (We have) to order them to come to work. It’s a different day. The Millennials (call in) sick to work once a week, you know?” says Kelly.

The trustees asked the Sheriff for more time to consider the contract, then tabled further discussion until the next regular meeting on Aug. 9. Kelly urged them to contact him with any questions.

After the meeting, a spokesperson for Deb Burchett, the Republican candidate challenging incumbent Democrat Sheriff Gene Kelly for the office of Clark County Sheriff in the next election, commented on Burchett’s behalf. “You have Sheriff Kelly not knowing where his people are or what they’re doing...and you’re talking about the taxpayers’ money in hand...That’s a huge concern that shows a lack of leadership and lack of management, pure and simple.”

FOLLOW-UP: Sheriff Kelly reached out to the New Carlisle News on Friday, Aug. 5 with copies of an email and letter the Sheriff says he sent to the Bethel Township Trustees in the days following the special work session. According to Kelly, he wants to create a “working document” with the township. Kelly says the correspondence he sent gives the trustees the opportunity to list deputies they prefer to work with, and asks them to provide a non-discriminatory rationale for their choices.

The Bethel Township Trustees’ receipt of the Sheriff’s email and letter has not been confirmed as of this writing.

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