This letter to the Editor is in response to the Thursday, March 7, 2019, Maryville Forum story by Anthony Brown with the headline, “Strong defends office spending.” While I appreciate the opportunity to answer questions asked by the media, the article fell short of properly addressing what actually took place.
Brown wrote; “Strong made several personnel changes and hires that affected the department’s overall salary level. These included the creation of a detective position and hiring of former Holt County sheriff Scott Wedlock” And Brown wrote, “A second hire brought retired Maryville Police sergeant Rick Smail on Board.” After addressing Smail’s hire, Brown’s article give the appearance that I just started adding staff at an additional cost to tax payers. This is not true. Captain Scott Wedlock filled a vacancy left by the former office holder’s Captain who retired before I took office. The Captain’s salary was already on the budget and had been approved by the Commissioners prior to me taking office. Captain Wedlock filled a vacancy; it was not a newly created position. The former Captain had longevity and cost of living increases. Captain Wedlock started at a lower salary. Captain Wedlock brings to the citizens of Nodaway County a vast amount of knowledge and experience that benefits my office. Captain Wedlock has a history of dealing with huge natural disasters in Holt County. He is well versed on the State’s move to improve radio communications that has been invaluable as we continue to move forward on a joint 911 communications center. Captain Wedlock also has valuable insight on the Sheriff’s budget process.
To address the hiring of Sergeant Rick Smail, he too filled a vacancy of a Sergeant whose salary was already on the budget prior to me taking office. Sgt. Smail also started at a lower Sergeant salary as he was a new hire. Rick Smail was the former President of the Missouri DARE Program and he is also a trained School Resource Officer. Sgt. Smail is current on all of his DARE and SRO certifications. Sgt. Smail has worked for years with a positive, pro-active approach providing education to our school age children about the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse. He is teaching in every county school and the children love him. In addition to his positive influence in our children’s lives, he has earned children’s confidence. As the SRO, he has had children disclose to him that they were being sexually abused. This opened investigations that help end that child’s suffering. Sgt. Smail raises the money to fund the DARE Program by making contacts with our DARE supporters who provide very generous support. Brown wrote; “Before Smail donned a county uniform the Nodaway program was taught by White, who received no additional compensation for the task.” Mr. Brown, please go ask each county school who provided a better service and get back with me on that.
And I did make a full time detective position. That is true, but I gave that assignment to an existing deputy. His duty is to ensure that every felony criminal complaint is properly and thoroughly investigated to provide our victims with the justice that they deserve. I have invested heavily in training him and I am seeing huge results.
The Salary increases in my office from 2016 to 2019 is a result of an 8% cost of living increase, and the 2 year longevity increases that county employees get that is afforded them by the commissioners. It has nothing to do with me. And the county employees deserve every bit of it.
The other apparent increase in my budget as compared to 2016, is attributed to the MOVEMENT of FICA, Health, Life, Unemployment Insurance, and LAGERS (retirement) being moved from a line item in the general fund and into the Sheriff’s budget. The cost was already there, just in a different fund. And of course we all know that these costs have risen since 2016. I have no control over this.
Under my administration we have not been sued for civil rights violations or illegal search, seizures, or arrest. I also made it clear that I will not tolerate sexual harassment of staff. It is my duty to protect the county from this avoidable liability. And I will not engage in press releases that are inflammatory victim blaming that brought such negativity to our great county.
Additionally I aggressively and proactively target DRUG DEALERS that contribute to our crime rate and who have ruined many lives. This is ongoing commitment and will remain a priority under my administration.
–– Sheriff Randy Strong