SIDNEY – Mark Jordan said the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office needs change while Jim Frye said the office should build off its success during Tuesday evening’s Shelby County Republican Party Candidate Forum.
Frye and Jordan, the two candidates for Shelby County sheriff, were featured during Tuesday’s forum at the Sidney Veterans Center in Sidney. They’re vying to replace Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, whose second stint as sheriff expires on Dec. 31.
Frye, the chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, highlighted his 38 years in public service, his compassionate approach to law enforcement and successes of the Sheriff’s Office as reasons why he should be the party’s nominee for sheriff.
“I’m very lucky,” Frye said. “I’ve had the support and endorsements of the commissioners, the Shelby County prosecutor and various mayors throughout Shelby County.”
Jordan, a sergeant in the Botkins Police Department, pointed to his 30 years in law enforcement, including 15 at the Sheriff’s Office, and 20 years as a CEO as reasons why he should be the next sheriff. He also criticized the current officials at the Sheriff’s Office for strained relationships with other law enforcement agencies and deaths in the Shelby County Jail.
“I think it’s time for change, folks,” Jordan said. “It’s time for change. It’s time for an upgrade.”
The conditions in the Shelby County Jail were a major focus of Tuesday’s forum with Jordan contending prisoners shouldn’t be allowed to purchase items such as electronic cigarettes and pizzas.
“It’s my belief that some of these things are a cause or a root of a problem to where we’re running a motel instead of a jail anymore,” Jordan said.
Frye defended the practice and said it’s part of a strategy to encourage good behavior as only inmates who follow the rules are granted the privilege of buying those items. He also said it’s the humane thing to do.
“They are human beings,” Frye said. “We’re not running a zoo to where we just lock them in there and let them do whatever they want. We’ve got to control their behavior.
“These programs are very good at keeping the inmates in line.”
Jordan said if the program was successful in keeping inmates in line, the jail wouldn’t have fights and deaths. Three inmates have died in recent years – one of an overdose, one by suicide and one following a fight.
“I believe in compassion, like Jim said,” Jordan said. “They aren’t animals; we shouldn’t treat them like animals. But they’re prisoners, right? We have a basic need to make sure that they’re safe in our jail and that nothing happens to them, right? I’m not going to stand here and say that this man or anybody down at the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for those deaths. That’s not what I’m saying. But what I am saying is they’re accountable.”
Frye said while it’s unfortunate that inmates have died, the Sheriff’s Office has done everything it can to keep inmates safe. The jail has implemented additional security measures and passed 100 percent of its inspections by the Bureau of Adult Detention since 2008, both scheduled and surprise visits.
“We do everything we can to keep them safe,” Frye said. “You’re not going to be able to take that many people and put them in that confined area and keep them from getting agitated towards another person.”
Frye invited community members to come see the jail.
“Come down and visit,” he said. “We’re an open book; we’re transparent. We would love to have you come down and see the jail and see the offices.”
Frye also supported other jail initiatives such as housing federal prisoners, which he said helps the jail be fiscally responsible and contributes more than $1 million annually to the county’s General Fund.
“We will continue those programs within the jail and the Sheriff’s Office to bring in that revenue to help offset the cost of the budget,” Frye said.
Jordan has no plans to increase or decrease the Sheriff’s Office budget at this time. He cited his work in private business as a reason why he’s well suited to handle the office’s finances.
“There are probably some things that we can do when it comes to efficiencies,” Jordan said. “I don’t know those things. I’m not on the inside. I don’t see the day to day of what is reported in the budget.”
One change Frye said he would make is eliminating the position of chief deputy within the Sheriff’s Office, a plan Jordan opposed. Jordan said he would keep current staff in place.
“Even though there’s quiet rumors that Jordan’s going to get rid of every employee at the Sheriff’s Office, it’s just not true,” Jordan said. “I couldn’t even hire 70 people overnight, right?”
Jordan did criticize the practice of having relatives working together and said he wouldn’t hire any members of his family at the Sheriff’s Office.
Frye’s wife has worked for 26 years in human resources at the Sheriff’s Office and his son has been a member of the Sheriff’s Office for two years. As sheriff, Frye wouldn’t hire any of his family members, but he wouldn’t force out the ones who already work in the office.
“To get rid of a person who’s been there for 26 years and has all that experience and knowledge would be senseless,” he said.
Multiple members of a family working at the Sheriff’s Office or in law enforcement in general is commonplace, Frye said. He added he wouldn’t have a problem firing a family member if it was warranted.
“Law enforcement is generational,” Frye said. “You know, it would be like you own a farm and the children are going to stay on the farm and work on the farm. Law enforcement is the same way.”
Jordan also criticized the Sheriff’s Office for strained relationships with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Sidney Police Department, saying the problems start at the top.
“Relationships are damaged, they’re broken, and they need repaired,” Jordan said, adding that repairing those relationships would be one of his first priorities.
Frye acknowledged that Lenhart has had issues with the Sidney Police and the Highway Patrol but said he personally has worked well with those agencies and others.
“I will not be that way,” Frye said of having issues with other departments. “I never have been that way nor will I be that way.”
Another disagreement between the candidates concerned the STRONG Ohio proposal championed by Gov. Mike DeWine, who also is a Republican. The legislation aims to prevent gun violence through safety protection orders, background checks, helping people in crisis and greater penalties for gun crimes. The legislation was sponsored by Republican Sen. Matt Dolan.
“I support those measures because we have to have a way to identify those individuals that might be an active shooter, and the STRONG Ohio bill will do that,” Frye said. “I am 100 percent in support of the Second Amendment.”
Jordan said he opposes any type of red flag law.
“I think we’re just knee-jerk reacting to these shooting events,” Jordan said.
During audience questions, Frye said the Sheriff’s Office’s efforts to clean up a homeless encampment in Sidney was a positive move. It combated illegal drug use, he said, and started a conversation about helping the county’s homeless individuals.
“How many people even talked about the homeless being under the bridge or Sidney having a homeless problem prior to that?” Frye said. “Not very many people talked about it, did they? That brought attention to the homeless people that were under the bridge.”
Jordan countered that media members shouldn’t have been involved and that items left at the encampment shouldn’t have been thrown away immediately.
“Yeah, it got attention, but it also got a lot of negative attention, too, in the way it was handled,” he said.
Another audience member asked about November’s SWAT standoff in Sidney that left one person dead. Jordan said inadequate training led to additional suffering by a hostage while Frye said the Sheriff’s Office has fixed issues that were exposed by the situation.
For more information about Jordan, visit his website at www.votejordansheriff.com or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/JordanforSheriff2020/.
For more information about Frye, visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Fryeforshelbycountysheriff.
Prior to the candidates for sheriff answering questions, Republican candidates who are unopposed in the March primary had the opportunity to briefly address the crowd of approximately 100 people. They talked about their lives, their accomplishments and what’s happening in their offices.
Robert A. Guillozet and Anthony J. Bornhorst are seeking re-election as county commissioners, Michele Mumford is seeking re-election as the clerk of courts, John E. Coffield is seeking re-election as treasurer, and Jeffrey J. Beigel is seeking re-election as judge for the Shelby County Probate/Juvenile Court.
Timothy S. Sell, who is seeking re-election as prosecutor, and Andrew David McDonald, who is seeking re-election as coroner, did not speak at Tuesday’s event.
Ohio’s primary election is scheduled for March 17. Individuals can register to vote until Feb. 18, and early voting begins Feb. 19.
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