News and Tribune

July 18, 2013

Community corrections director to be reinstated

Probation, community corrections to again be independent departments

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

Clark County Community Corrections Director Steve Mason got some good news on Wednesday: He still has a job. 

Two weeks after the Clark County Community Corrections Advisory Board put Mason on paid leave and convened an ad-hoc committee to look into whether Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford’s decision to terminate Mason was proper and legal, the board voted to reinstate Mason effective Friday. Ford had claimed that Mason had exhibited a pattern of poor decision-making and inappropriate behavior. Ford later said he had “misspoke” when he told Mason that he was fired, noting that he lacked the authority to make that decision. 

“I just want to thank God for being with me and giving me the strength to get through this,” Mason said. “I thank the committee and the board for making what I believe is the right decision, and I want to thank my family and my friends for being there.”

In addition to approving Mason’s return to active duty on Friday, the advisory board endorsed each of the committee’s other recommendations, most important among them being the separation of the probation department from the community corrections department. 

“[Combining the two departments] was an experiment that while well-intentioned, didn’t work,” said Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Dan Moore, who led the ad-hoc committee. The committee included other members of the advisory board, as well as County Commissioners Rick Stephenson and John Perkins. 

Mason saw the decision to divorce his department from probation as good news.

“I think we’ll come out as a better organization, and I think that will help us provide a better service to our clients,” Mason said. 

However, the committee found that there are some areas where Mason could improve. In a letter drafted for review of the advisory board entitled “Expectations for the Executive Director, Work Release Director and Staff of the Clark County Community Corrections Program,” the committee recommends that Mason work on his interpersonal and management skills. 

“Learn from the events of June 28, 2013, and the events disclosed thereafter, particularly improving your communication and interpersonal skills,” the letter states. “Good communication skills are expected of good managers.” 

Mason and Ford had clashed over the hours of a community corrections employee who claimed hours on his time sheet that Mason said the employee did not work. 

Moore said the findings of the investigation conducted by the committee will be forwarded to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, but did not offer an opinion when asked if there had been any criminal wrongdoing on the part of the employee. 

In addition to working to improve his relationship with other departments in the criminal justice system, the letter also recommends that Mason schedule each of his staff members for professional-development and diversity training “very soon,” that Mason modernize the community corrections department’s “comp time” policy and that Mason and Work Release Director Danielle Grissett arrange so that at least one of the two is on call at all times. 

The committee recommended that Mason’s performance be reviewed within six months to ensure that progress is being made.