At the conclusion of two meetings totaling nearly four hours, the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center Board had taken several actions Tuesday to expedite hiring, combat contraband and more.
Hirings to be expedited
Board members had previously voiced concerns with the ongoing problems of long, expensive overtime hours and long shifts for inmate hospital details, with the conclusion drawn that new hires must be made.
Following the meeting’s first executive session, the purpose for which was cited as personnel, the board made multiple motions.
“On our expedited hiring procedure, for a committee that’s identified for each county to make immediate probational hirings based on the committee’s recommendations and that the personnel then be ratified at the next scheduled board meeting. I make that motion,” board member Ann Ratliff said.
The board also voted to pay for the insurance costs for medical reasons for one of its longtime employees, as another motion out of the executive session.
Later in the meeting, the board discussed the sometimes days-long shifts some guards take on hospital duty. According to the board’s attorney, Nelson Sparks, the long shifts were legal so long as the employee volunteers for the shift and waives his or her rights to breaks. Notice that such shifts may be asked of the guards is part of the agreement made in hiring.
Ratliff, one of the members of a subcommittee charged with looking into the issue, recommended making a list of new, part-time employees from each county to be called upon for short shifts to relieve guards on long details. Jailer Steve Rose motioned also that shifts be limited to 16 hours before requiring an eight hour break, a motion that passed.
BSRDC to get body scanner
Board members discussed the problem of contraband drugs finding their way into the jail, often concealed in body cavities during inmate intake. The board voted to approve the purchase of a dual view full body X-ray scanner, which administrator F. D. “Pete” Fitzpatrick said was the top-of-the-line model he had seen in use during his tours of other jails and research into the products.
The scanner, from Romaine Companies, is listed at $187,500, but Fitzpatrick said it could be purchased at a price of $185,000. The device uses software to automatically identify anomalies such as drugs or weapons, and its purchase includes training for jail staff.
The contraband itself, on display at the meeting, was a sticking point for the board, who learned that Fitzpatrick was housing dozens of bags of pills, suspected crystal methamphetamine and more, in some cases dating back several years, in a locked cabinet in his office on site at the jail.
Fitzpatrick said that in contraband cases, the jail always contacts law enforcement, but officers do not always respond and when they do, they often do not take possession of the evidence, leaving it in limbo. In some cases, officers return to take custody of the evidence, for lab testing and prosecution. In other cases, no one comes, leaving the drugs to pile up.
Board members found Fitzpatrick was following the letter of the jail’s policy by contacting law enforcement and making the effort to aid in prosecution. Board chair Daniel Castle said the handling and eventual destruction of the evidence should fall under the purview of Fitzpatrick, as day-to-day duties of the administrator.
Board members leave closed session
Because the meeting had been moved from its regular date and made a special meeting, the board was unable to modify the agenda, and as such opted to convene a second closed session, again citing matters of personnel, before reconvening in open session, adjourning the meeting and calling an emergency meeting immediately following. The emergency session was held expressly for hiring of employees.
However, the adjournment of the special meeting and the subsequent emergency meeting were held with the bare minimum needed for a quorum, after board members Joe Mills and L. T. Preece left the meeting during the second closed executive session. Tuesday was Preece’s first meeting.
“I am walking out,” Mills said in the hallway outside the meeting room. “I cannot believe what is going on.”
Mills declined further comment on the closed meeting’s discussion.
“We are going to call an emergency session because we had nothing on our agenda about hires,” Castle said when the meeting had reconvened and adjourned.
The board voted to hire three individuals from Johnson County, two from Magoffin County and one from Lawrence County.