MARINETTE — Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve plans to wage an all-out effort to get two additional deputies, despite a setback dealt to his effort last week.
A motion to forward without recommendation a resolution to create two more deputy positions contingent on Law Enforcement Committee approval and the Finance Committee recommending 2015 funding was rejected last Friday by a 2-2 margin by the county board’s Personnel Committee, with one of its members absent.
“Unfortunately, the corporation counsel (Gale Mattison) is on vacation and out of state and she’s not available to consult with on this matter,” Sauve told the Law Enforcement Committee on Monday. “I want to point out to the committee today that it is my intention to, one way or another, get before the full county board and be heard on this issue.”
“I feel it is far too important to this law enforcement agency for me to get stopped by a 2-2 vote by the Personnel Committee, when one member was absent.”
It’s the second major budget battle the sheriff has fought in the past few months. On July 29, he successfully convinced the county board to keep the proposed $252,000 purchase of a BearCat armored vehicle in the county’s 2015 Capital Improvement Plan.
Sauve noted that the county’s personnel policies and procedures say that if the county administrator denies a position request it is dead.
“That did not happen here because the three (temporary) administrators signed off on this and recommended for it to go forward,” he explained. “However, (according to the county’s procedures manual) if the Personnel Committee denied the position request or the Finance Committee denies the funding, the process ends.”
The sheriff, however, argued that under the county’s bylaws the proposal should have come to the Law Enforcement Committee first since it is the committee of jurisdiction over the sheriff’s department.
“I argue the process as it was laid out was flawed in sequence,” Sauve said. “So as I read that (the bylaw), this committee needs to act on this first and that if the vote is favorable, it moves on to Personnel. I believe it has to happen this way.”
Supervisor Ken Keller, chairperson of the Law Enforcement Committee, said he would prefer the committee of jurisdiction vote on the proposal first, but that that hasn’t always been done in the past.
“We have for years been doing this out of sequence on authorizing this stuff,” said Keller, who is also a member of the Personnel Committee. “Committee meetings are not always coordinated.”
“I don’t feel such an important request should be foiled at one committee level by a non-full committee and 2-2 vote,” Sauve said. “I would like this committee to go on record and see what happens.
“Forward it to Personnel and Finance and see what happens. Like I said before, I would like to go before the whole board on something so important.”
After hearing opposition to the addition of two deputies by Keller and support for it by Paul Gustafson, another committee member, the committee apparently kept the proposal alive.
The committee, by a 3-1 margin, approved a motion by Mike Behnke that was seconded by Gustafson to recommend the Personnel Committee and full county board consider creating two additional deputy positions contingent on the Finance Committee recommending 2015 funding.
Also voting for the proposal was Cheryl Wruk. Keller was the lone dissenter and Ken Mattison was absent.
“The law enforcement agency is a priority,” Gustafson said. “I don’t think it should be cut or cut out.
“This is a safety issue. I would just like us to be, if we have a crisis, to have enough manpower to take care of it.”
Keller explained that he voted against the proposal on Monday, and also on Friday as a member of the Personnel Committee, for budgetary reasons, noting that a number of costly projects have been approved during the past year for the sheriff’s department.
“If you think back a year ago, the Executive Committee gave the county administrator at the time an order or request to cut the budget by 10 percent,” he said. “It seems to me after she started working on that, it was like all hell broke loose, like you’re touching my committee or this or that.
“Right now, without an administrator in place, the sheriff is not the only one looking for additional help. It’s hard to cut a budget if the Law Enforcement Committee authorizes these kind of expenses all in a year.”
Keller, who also serves on the Marinette City Council, said another reason he voted against the proposal to create two more deputy positions was that he would like to see more cooperation between the sheriff’s and Marinette police departments to save taxpayers money.
“Figure out some way to get the police department to expand its territory, which I think it has done in the past couple of years by going outside the city limits,” he explained. “The population of the county hasn’t gotten a lot higher.
“Some of the crime maybe has risen. But what I see on the city level is we’re stable and actually lower than last year.”