The irony of our local paper, The Central Virginian http://bit.ly/1N8Ejmw publishing an article called “Targeting the Issues in the race for County Sheriff,” without a single word from Sheriff Ashland Fortune, while extensively quoting his second in command, Major Donnie Lowe will likely escape many of their readers.
A form of Journalistic malpractice that completely avoids asking the question; who is really running the Sheriff’s office, Fortune or Lowe?
Low effort reporting that gives Major Lowe free reign to distract the public from any concerns about how they are managing taxpayer’s money with carefully choreographed … I mean stenographed tales .
While the larger story of how much overtime LCSO employees have been racking up over the past few years was pointedly ignored, and is information they should have noticed when examining their own FOI documents.
Information that shows 23 LCSO full time staff making 160 thousand dollars in overtime last fiscal year. More than half of the 300 thousand plus in OT racked up by the Sheriff’s department.
With the FY 2015 figures coming out soon, it should be interesting to see what they say.
Nor did they do their readers any favors by giving Donnie the kid glove treatment in transcribing his claims of how wisely the LCSO’s has been using, maintaining and operating their fleet of vehicles and conserving the taxpayer’s money.
Concerns that incidentally, were not addressed.
Claiming in the case of police vehicles, that it is less expensive to have officers take them home as opposed to parking them at a county lot after shifts and having officers “hot swap” them from one shift to another, without offering a shred of evidence.
Essentially telling the taxpaying public that ensuring public safety and maintaining emergency response times are not subject to any cost considerations.
While there are certainly circumstances where high levels of overtime and vehicular expense are the cost of maintaining public safety, it’s never been clear what efforts the LCSO has made to contain them.
And in the absence of any verifiable information about how they are tracking, let alone controlling those expenses, all the citizen’s of Louisa have to go on is Donnie’s word, dutifully copied by the CV.
Speaking of the value of ones word, since this article was printed Donnie has been using the CV’s FB page to attack Silberman, along with posting private and confidential communications between himself and Silberman for all to see. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Central-Virginian/254722314545932
Actions which reflect his brand of mud slinging and character assassination, with a healthy dose of “how dare you question my authority” thrown in.
Presumably it was that same lack of judgment lead him post this confidential information a second time on the CV’s FB post about a drug bust coincidentally lead by his son.
It should be noted that the original posting about this bust had some 40+ comments, with many coming from Donnie and his supporters, and was later deleted by the CV.
These unguarded public comments are indicative of authoritarian attitudes that are dug in deeper than a tick, a collection of institutionalized behaviors which for better or worse represent the LCSO’s views about any need for any public accountability.
Like how after abandoning their 2007 pledge to comply with the State Law Enforcement Accreditation process, Major Lowe casually brushes it off, claiming “We’ve gone as far as we can in the accreditation process,” and then proceeds to change the conversation by kvetching about architectural barriers and private spaces.
Without offering even the slightest explanation of what, if anything they have done to address relatively manageable problems.
With such a “we don’t answer to nobody” attitude, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that after Sheriff Fortune’s initial request for a “raise” was turned down by the Board of Supervisors last year that Sheriff Fortune gave himself a $10 thousand dollar bonus shortly afterwards.
When asked about this, County Administrator, Christian Goodwin completely avoided the fact that the Board of Supervisors neither discussed or authorized it, claiming that those actions were entirely consistent within the LCSO’s budgetary prerogatives.
Given the Board;s historical unwillingness to provide any oversight over their expenditures, and the LCSO’s habit of operating on “supplemental” funding, it’s too much to expect that they might remember this when the Sheriff comes to them later in the year asking for more money.
Whatever concerns there may be about dysfunction, waste, and fiscal accountability within the LCSO, they pale in comparison to the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it ” mindset which guides our Board of Supervisors actions.
Who are apparently convinced that the the wisest course of action is to “get along to go along” and to never ask any questions, particularly embarrassing ones.
And here’s where the rub to that practice comes in.
According to the States Compensation Board, the base salaries of constitutional officers like the Sheriff are established by law and defined by the size of the County’s population, level of responsibility, and accreditation status. http://www.scb.virginia.gov/salary1.cfm#sheriffs
While the County Board of Supervisors can certainly choose to pay Sheriff Fortune more than the base $ 85,000 salary, there is no record of this ever happening in the past … or at least that anyone will publicly admit to.
Even as the CV publicly confirmed that Sheriff Fortune is making $ 95,000, they were apparently unaware that it also exceeds what is permitted under Virginia law.
These same law’s also prohibit any deputy of a constitutionally elected officer, in this case, Major Lowe from making more than 90% of the Sheriff’s salary. And since he’s making $90,000, it’s not too hard to do the math.
And thus far, it’s been an inconvenient detail which doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference to the new county Attorney, the county Administrator, or even the Board of Supervisors.
For someone who is supposedly running on a platform of honesty, and integrity, Sheriff Ashland Fortune by allowing Donnie Lowe to run the LCSO as his personal kingdom for more than a decade appears to have succeeded in straying about as far away from those values as humanly possible.