By Hood Richardson
Republican Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman latched on to the Socialist Democrat issue to destabilize society by defunding police and sheriffs. The Socialist Democrats purpose was to create chaos and drive dependency to their political organization by defunding police. Sheriff Coleman is using the defunding issue to cover up his unethical behavior, past promises and high spending.
Since Coleman became Sheriff we have spent about two million dollars to improve the communications for the sheriff’s department. The old system worked fine but Coleman hired a consultant who proposed a huge over kill in the system and then was awarded the contract on a single bid to do the work. Fishy at best, but surely unethical and maybe worse. This stunt was supported by the RINO commissioners holding hands with the Democrats.
Then there was the unannounced shut down of the jail at a cost of 2.5 million dollars. Same scenario, without notice to the board, secret back room negotiations on out of county jail space at high prices. The entire fix could have been done for $250.000. Same scenario RINO’s holding hands with the two Democrats. Anybody smell anything.
Then there are all those patrol cars and a lot of other spending. Coleman promised commissioners he would deliver a non increased budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 if only they would allow him to spend spend, spend.
When it came budget time last year Coleman had trouble deciding what cuts he could make in the budget. He had trouble keeping and employing people. He never filled all his job openings but he spent the money anyway. He decided to take 5 deputies out of the budget. That was about $275.000. He then proposed to freeze those positions. His idea was that if he could save the $275,000 in operations, he would ask to unfreeze the positions.
Coleman announced during early 2020 that he had accumulated a surplus of about $250,000 in salaries and he wanted to give raises within the Sheriff’s Department. The commissioners told the manager in an open meeting that our policy was to follow the budget and we had not budgeted raises to be given during the year. We instructed the manager that this was a no action item expecting the raises not to be given. We expressed concern that no other county employees were getting raises. Coleman. with the help of the manager, gave the raises anyway.
A total of 41 employees of the 99 in the Sheriff’s Department got raises. They ranged from a low of $1,327 to a high of $11,300. Forty Eight employees got nothing. These raises were never approved by a vote in an open meeting by the Board of County Commissioners. However, you may be sure the manager did not allow this money (about $200,000) to be spent without having the backroom approval of at least four commissioners. This all happened during the winter of 2020.
The new fiscal year began on July 1, 2020. Now comes Coleman in the next physical year (the one we are in now) and asks for the approximate $250,000 for the frozen positions to be taken from the fund balance (the five positions are not budgeted) so he can hire the five new deputies. Notice that Coleman never indicated that he had accumulated the money in savings as promised.
I ask requested Coleman to justify the need for the additional employees in writing. He produced nothing. Like a three-year-old child he indicated he wanted the deputies because he wanted them. Not based on need but on want.
Consider that that he says he needs additional help to transport prisoners with a jail population of less than 50 percent of what it was last year and only two prisoners out of county during the month of December. Coleman’s stories just do not add up. But then Coleman’s background is a highway patrolman not a criminal investigator. I guess he just does not understand the importance of making his stories fit up.
These events stretch over a year and a half and across two fiscal year budgets. This situation is confusing and difficult to follow. For one thing, our fiscal year begins in July. I think Coleman is counting on most of us not being able to follow his scheming so he can say whatever he wants.
After the commissioners refused to increase the budget, Coleman started the false rumor that we are defunding him. When it comes to handling money and keeping promises, Coleman is not reliable.
Coleman then shifted to doing away with School Resource Officers. Beaufort County contracts with the school system and is paid by the school system and partially with grant money for school resource officers.
Coleman believes he can keep these employees by cancelling he contract. Those jobs are budgeted only for the schools. Coleman has actually fired all of them.
Coleman is naïve enough to believe that because he signed the contract which was approved by the Board of County Commissioners that he can cancel it. There will be more at a later date on who can sign contracts and assign duties to the staff.
Coleman’s warped thinking is no more flawed than that Washington, DC crowd trying to rid themselves of Donald J. Trump. Logic, reason and the truth just do not count.
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