News and Tribune

July 19, 2013

Clark County commissioners officially ‘hire’ corrections director

Commissioners call for punitive action against chief probation officer

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

On June 28, Clark County Community Corrections Executive Director Steve Mason thought he had been fired from his job after a conversation with Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford. 

But Thursday, a day after Mason learned he’d be returning to duty after a paid leave of absence, the Clark County Commissioners officially ratified Mason’s hiring — as they’d never weighed in on the matter before — and declined to sign off on a letter to Ford because it wasn’t punitive enough in nature. 

The commissioners signed off on two letters recommended by the Clark County Community Corrections Advisory Board — one addressed to Mason and another addressed to Mason and his staff. Mason is notified in the first that his paid leave of absence is to conclude today, that he is required to attend both commissioners’ and advisory board meetings, and that he is to rely more on Work Release Director Danielle Grissett as a liaison between his department and others. 

In the second letter, expectations are outlined for the operations of the department. However, the commissioners asked that a clause in the document be removed prior to their approval because it calls for two employees who manage the county’s home-incarceration and day-reporting programs be transferred to the probation department under Ford’s supervision because it could affect the grant that funds community corrections. 

According to Grissett, the grant — which is funded by the Indiana Department of Correction — may be jeopardized because the grant specifically calls for the two programs to be run through the county’s community corrections department. The total amount of the grant is $693,978, which includes $100,187 for home incarceration and $24,322 for day reporting. The commissioners authorized Grissett to further investigate the impact of transferring the two programs to probation. 

Circuit Court Judge Dan Moore, who appeared before the commissioners to present the letters to Mason and his staff for the board’s approval, also asked the board to approve an advisory letter to Ford informing him that he lacked the authority to fire Mason, with or without the direction of Judge Vicki Carmichael, who Ford said ordered him to do so. 

Mason and Ford had clashed because Ford had ordered Mason to alter the time sheet of a community corrections employee to include hours that Mason said the employee did not work. The commissioners said they found that to be the more appalling aspect of the incident. 

“Mr. Mason was more right in denying the order than Henry was in giving it,” said Commissioner Rick Stephenson. 

“To me, that is the more serious matter,” Commissioner John Perkins said. 

Perkins recommended that the letter be more punitive in nature. Stephenson motioned that the two letters to Mason be approved, but the letter to Ford be tabled so that the language could be reworked to include the “sternest of warnings.” 

The motion passed unanimously. 

 

INAPPROPRIATE MISDIRECTION OF FUNDS

Reading from a prepared statement at the beginning of the meeting, Stephenson said that July 8 it was brought to the attention of the commissioners by engineering firm Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz that “funds had been inappropriately been misdirected by the previous administration from hosting fees at the Clark-[Floyd] Landfill.”

“A portion of the quarterly revenues that are reimbursed to the county were deducted, and the full amount was not distributed to the county to be applied to the proper fund,” Stephenson said. “This action has been halted immediately and the proper authorities have been notified. Those authorities will decide on any further action to be taken.” 

Stephenson said that among the authorities notified were the Indiana State Police, the Indiana State Board of Accounts and the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. The commissioners declined to answer any further questions, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. 

 

INSURANCE TABLED

The commissioners decided to table a proposal from Neace Lukens representatives Barbara Swank-Gallegos and Edward “Pepper” Cooper to renew two insurance policies. 

Cooper is the agent of record for the county’s worker’s compensation and property, casualty and general liability insurance policies. The price for the renewal proposed by Neace Lukens would be $333,350 for property, casualty and general liability, and $314,000 for the worker’s compensation policy. 

Perkins thanked Cooper for allowing untimely payments toward the county’s current policies, which Cooper said he had personally guaranteed to protect his client. When Stephenson said he’d prefer to table the renewal, Perkins asked if it was the right thing to do. 

“I don’t think we’re going to get a better quote,” Perkins said. 

But Stephenson wasn’t swayed. 

“There’s no need to be rushed into a decision if we can get better elsewhere,” Stephenson said. 

Commissioners President Jack Coffman seconded Stephenson’s motion when Perkins declined to do so, and the vote to table the policies passed 2-1, with Perkins in dissent. 

The commissioners will revisit the issue at their next meeting Aug. 1.