4 seek Republican nomination for sheriff
Four candidates are vying for the Republican nomination in the May 2 Primary to run for sheriff.
The Republicans, hoping to lead the sheriff’s department for the next four years, are Michael Gregory of Palmyra, Rolla Pirtle of Corydon, Stephen R. Priest of Corydon and Ray E. Saylor of Depauw.
Four years ago, when the incumbent sheriff seeking election was a Republican, the same number of Republicans were seeking their party’s nomination, and three of those are running again this year.
In 2002, Pirtle, former chief under the late Bill Carver, received 25 percent of the Republican vote. Gregory captured 20 percent of the vote and Saylor 17 percent. Sheriff C. Wendell Smith, who was appointed after Carver’s death in 2001, won the nomination with 38 percent.
All of the candidates in this year’s race have said if elected, they would be willing to work under contract rather than a salary plus special, somewhat hidden perks. Those included such incentives as pocketing the profits on meals and a fee for serving delinquent taxes collected. This year, the sheriff’s salary is $81,450.
The sheriff is elected county-wide to four-year terms. The terms are limited by the Indiana Constitution of 1816 to two consecutive four years. But after sitting out a term, they can run for the office again.
The duties of the sheriff are prescribed by state law and, simply put, include keeping the peace, operating the jail and caring for the inmates. That means looking over an average inmate population of 160 people a week, who are either convicted or awaiting trial while unable to post bail, if it has been allowed.
The sheriff is administrator of the sheriff’s and the jail’s budget, both of which will be set later this year for 2007 by the county council.
Using this year as an example, the sheriff’s administrative budget is $884,883, which includes funding for 11 officers, an office staff of four, eight dispatchers and several part-time dispatchers. Two dispatchers are also paid from Emergency 911 funds.
The jail budget is a little more than $1 million, and a good part of that is used to provide food, medical care, clothing and transport for inmates. The corrections officers, also referred to as jailers, are paid through the jail budget, and that includes 22 corrections officers, four ranking corrections officers, a commissary officer, two licensed practical nurses, the matron, three full-time cooks and three part-time cooks. The sheriff also oversees nine other officers paid by Caesars Indiana, which takes care of all expenses for the officers, including salaries and benefits, patrol cars, maintenance and fuel. That budget is $781,157 for 2006.
Other than the costs of officers covered by Caesars, the bud-get is funded with property tax dollars, grants or the state. Additional funds are collected through user fees for specific uses in the jail.
The sheriff is allowed to appoint his or her chief deputy and a matron, who by law must be paid as much as the lowest paid police officer.
Michael Gregory, 53, a volunteer reserve officer with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. for more than 10 years, is making a second run at the Republican nomination to run for sheriff in the fall.
‘It’s something I have a passion about,’ Gregory said of law enforcement. ‘I do it for free, so obviously I enjoy it.’
He added: ‘I think I can provide the leadership necessary to fix the problems at the sheriff’s department. He has (former detective, Capt. Richard) Bauman guarding dirty clothes, (Bruce) LaHue is shooting at people on the interstate.
‘We’ve gone way too far in a bad direction.’
Gregory said the sheriff’s department has many good employees, but they need management. ‘We have a cycle right now with people being mistreated,’ he said. ‘I can go in objectively and try to straighten out the problem.
‘This primary is going to come down to two people,’ a Republican and a Democrat, Gregory said. ‘The public needs to choose the best two of the candidates who stood up and said, ‘Look at me.’ Take a very close look at them between May and November.’
And when the voters take a close look Gregory said they will see in him a person who has the ‘education, experience, ability to interact with people in an intelligent manner and management skills,’ to lead the sheriff’s department.
Gregory is a native of Louisville who moved across the Ohio River to Floyd County as soon as he graduated high school, then from Floyd County to Harrison County in 1993, where his wife, the former Roberta Harbin, works in the North Harrison schools as a speech therapist. She has now been with the school corporation some 30 years. They have two grown children.
Gregory is a professor of biology since 1992 at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana in Sellersburg. Prior to that, he taught at Jefferson Community College in Louisville. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky.
The candidate’s interests in law enforcement stem from his father’s police work with the Exploited and Missing Children’s Task Force in Louisville in the early 1980s.
Gregory began working with the Floyd County Coroner in the 1990s and joined the volunteer reserve force in Harrison County about 10 years ago.
He is also in construction work, building houses and room additions, which shows good management skills that would carryover to the sheriff’s position. Gregory said, ‘If I make a mistake, I have to eat it; therefore I am very careful.
‘If you’re spending the taxpayer’s dollar, you have to have the same attitude.’
Challenging the current sheriff’s disbanding the detective division, Gregory said arrests are up only because crime is up, not because there are more officers patrolling the roads. ‘Arrests may be up but crime is not down,’ he said. ‘It’s up by so much you would expect the arrest rates to go up.
‘If crime is down, why are all the people who support victims rights asking for more and more support.’
If elected, Gregory said he would reinstate the detective division and would return K-9 drug dogs to the sheriff’s department to make them available to officers on every shift.
‘Every time we stop a car and we think the person is involved in meth, we have to get a search warrant’ to look in areas not readily visible, such as the trunk of a vehicle where more and more drug labs are turning up. ‘If a dog ‘locks up’ on him, he’s done,’ Gregory said. ‘And the dopers know that.’
If elected, Gregory said he would increase the training for officers, especially advanced training such as that for the use of Taser guns which recently took place. He said that did not happen until the Jan. 20 shootings on the interstate had occurred.
He maintains that Chief Gary Gilley is inappropriately involved in every drug case. ‘Gilley is the drug czar in Harrison County,’ Gregory said. ‘He takes over every drug case; he’s supposed to be the administrator.’
He would also lobby the county council to maintain the extra officers now paid with riverboat money through county general funds. ‘If the state takes money away, and we lay off eight or 10 officers, no one else has a contingency plan on what to do.
‘We need to start planning for the future.’
Rolla Pirtle, 44, has been a marshal with the Corydon Police Dept. about a year. He also works part time for Lincoln Springs Nursery.
He formerly was with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. since 1986 and had been a lieutenant. But he served as chief, second in command, under William E. (Bill) Carver Sr., who died of a massive heart attack in September 2001, a little over a year shy of completing his first term.
‘I am a career police officer, not a politician,’ Pirtle said.
He resigned from Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick’s force about two years ago. ‘I felt the way the department was run was an embarrassment,’ Pirtle said. ‘I didn’t want to be a part of it.’
The sheriff’s duty, he said, is to oversee the department, to make sure officers are trained and properly equipped to do their job, to oversee the jail to make sure inmates are housed properly and to oversee the staff.
‘The sheriff’s job is to make sure everything is run efficiently and professionally,’ he said.
‘Right now, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. has a lot of potential. It has good officers; I just think it needs proper leadership.
‘With that, I think the sheriff’s department can reach a higher level in serving the people.’
Harrison County currently has ‘a growing meth problem,’ Pirtle said. ‘I believe it should be dealt with aggressively by all of the members of the department and the public as well.’
He is a former undercover officer with the Southern Indiana Drug Task Force, which reflects his training and commitment to continue the war against all illicit drugs. But he doesn’t believe that’s an overriding issue.
‘I believe the number one issue for the department should be the service people receive,’ he said. ‘The driving force behind the decision-making process should be the concerns of the people, not based on what’s good for one or two people.’
Pirtle said if elected, ‘My only promise is to provide a good police service.’
He does not intend to ‘beat people over the head’ campaigning for the nomination. ‘Get what you need to get out there, and people will decide for themselves what they want,’ he said.
‘People are looking for someone who is committed to the job and service. There’s been enough talk of favoritism and lawsuits; those can get very expensive.
‘The sheriff needs to be very conscious of that.’
Pirtle is a native of Harrison County who grew up in Ramsey. He graduated from North Harrison High School in 1980.
He is divorced and has a grown daughter and a son, Ethan, 16, a sophomore at North Harrison.
Pirtle joined the police force in 1986, under the administration of Leonard McAfee. He is specialized in firearms and has training in police management. ‘I don’t make rash decisions or quick judgments,’ he said. ‘If there is something I don’t know, I will find out.’
Stephen R. Priest, 47, is an Indiana State Police trooper with the Sellersburg post who is making his first bid for public office.
He was assigned to cover Harrison and Floyd counties when he became a state trooper in 1981. He was promoted to sergeant in 1991 and as such supervises and evaluates state troopers.
Priest is was born in Hardinsburg, Ky., and grew up near Irvington, Ky., but after earning a bachelor’s degree in police administration from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, joined the Indiana force because Kentucky had a hiring freeze in force.
He graduated from the Indiana State Police Recruit School in Plainfield in 1980 and became an ISP trooper the same year.
He graduated the FBI’s national academy in Quantico, Va., in 1995.
If elected sheriff, Priest said he would retire from the state police.
He would focus on the future. ‘This is a very progressive county,’ he said. ‘It’s changed a lot in the 25 years since I’ve been here.
‘There’s a lot of positive things happening in this county in the last few years,’ he said. ‘I think I could bring a lot to the sheriff’s department, to the people working there and to the county.’
Although he said more officers on the force would always be welcome, he believes the reserve force helps provide important coverage. ‘I’m very supportive of the reserve program,’ he said.
Among several goals, Priest said he would locate and identify all registered sex offenders living in Harrison County and ensure they are on the state registry. He would also conduct random checks to ensure registered offenders are in compliance with Indiana law.
In addition, he would create a sheriff’s department Web site, to include the sex offender registry and a tip section for citizens to contact if they have information regarding Harrison County’s ‘most wanted.’
Also, Priest said, ‘I would work in cooperation with other agencies on the local, state and federal level to aggressively target the illegal use, manufacturing and dealing of drugs in Harrison County.’
Illegal drugs, he said, have been around for years. ‘Greed drives the drug problem.
‘If you are going to be successful at dealing with drugs, you have to be willing to work closely with other agencies, the state and the conservation officers and the federal agencies.’
While methamphetamine is a big problem nationwide and in Harrison County, Priest said, ‘It’s not the only drug here in Harrison County.
‘Every county has a drug problem. You just keep fighting and fighting it, through education and law enforcement.’
When federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ cases involving drugs and guns are prosecuted in federal court, the convicted person sent to federal prison does not get a day off for every day served with good behavior, as they can with the state, Priest pointed out.
Priest has a long list of experiences with the state police, including: SWAT emergency response; undercover narcotics; marijuana eradication; youth counseling, firearms instructions and disseminating public information.
Priest is married to the former Barbara Padgett, an elementary school teacher in Brandenburg for 25 years. They have one grown daughter.
Ray E. Saylor, 50, is making his second primary bid for the Republican nomination to run for sheriff.
‘Part of the problem at the sheriff’s office is that politics are involved,’ Saylor said. ‘The sheriff’s office has been and to some degree will continue to be a political position, but that should only involve the sheriff, not the employees or the officers.’
It is the sheriff’s job to support the officers and to make sure they have the tools and training necessary to do their job, Saylor said.
He believes the current sheriff’s force is top-heavy in administration, and if elected, he would investigate the possibility of hiring retired police officers to work in administration. ‘If a civilian can adequately do those jobs, then we could put those current officers back on the street,’ Saylor said. ‘It would reduce the costs to the taxpayer because they would be federally funded.’
He said, currently, civilians are handling the job of maintaining the sheriff’s administrative office, such as the front desk. ‘We need to reevaluate those employees and place them where they can be more effective.’
Retired police could cover the front desk and keep the office open 24 hours a day to tend to the public’s business, Saylor said. ‘You should be able to get a police report or a VIN (vehicle identification number) check or gun permit any time of day. The office should not be closed; it should be available to the taxpayer.’
Again, federal grants are available to hire those officers, Saylor said.
He would also work to create a partnership between the community and business, so funds could be available for specialized training for officers. That could be accomplished if a foundation were established to receive contributions and government funds, the earnings from which could eventually be used.
‘We will look at every tax dollar to make sure it’s used responsibly,’ Saylor said.
Saylor is the chief marshal at Milltown, a part-time communications specialist for STATCARE (the air-ambulance service based in Louisville), a deputy coroner in both Harrison and Crawford counties, and a volunteer firefighter. He was an Emergency Medical Technician for the City of Louisville for 14 years before he went to work for the air-ambulance service.
He is also certified as a drug investigator and domestic violence/sexual assault investigator, and is an instructor for the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.
As a K-9 officer, Saylor provides services for other law enforcement agencies when asked, as often as possible.
‘Obviously, I would bring back the canine division,’ he said. ‘A number of other candidates have mentioned to me that they want to do that, too, but I have the experience to make that happen.’
As would other candidates, Saylor also thinks the detective division should be reactivated, but under a different classification. Saylor would create a criminal intelligence division to handle investigations. ‘Cases need specialized attention that the road officer simply doesn’t have the time to dedicate to it.’
Saylor also served four years as the chief marshal at Lanesville. He also was a volunteer reserve officer for Jeffersonville and Clark County police, and later, a reserve officer in Harrison County. He joined that force during the late Sheriff Edward L. Davis’ administration.
Saylor said one of his goals is to create a ‘proactive, interactive relationship with the citizens. We’ve become a reactive agency; we need to become more involved with people, civic groups and in the schools.’
Saylor said federal justice department grants are available to fund a school resource officer, which is needed ‘not so much because we have problems in the schools, but if we can prevent crime from happening, we should.’
He also would reinstate the DARE program and, along that line, a gang resistance education program. ‘If we focus on deterring youth from becoming involved in gangs, we eliminate that problem,’ he said.
A team approach should be used in resolving drug problems, Saylor said, which means all officers should be trained to combat drugs.
He would investigate the possibility of using emergency medical stations in Elizabeth and New Salisbury as police substations. He said, ‘We would partner with the EMS to use the north and south as potential substations so officers don’t have to drive all the way back to Corydon’ to download reports from laptop computers.
A native of New Albany, Saylor attended college at the University of Alaska while serving in the U.S. Army.
He moved to Harrison County from Louisville nearly 20 years ago, because he wanted to live in a rural setting. He is married to Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, who was first hired as a staff writer for The Corydon Democrat in 1991. They have two grown children.