SIDNEY – The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office wants people to know the COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse to ignore the criminal justice system.
Chief Deputy Jim Frye joined Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart for his weekly interview and said people haven’t been showing up for their court dates in Shelby County Common Pleas Court and Sidney Municipal Court.
“It was one of those situations where they probably felt that they would not get arrested,” the chief deputy said.
In response, the Sheriff’s Office opened up a pod in the Shelby County Jail where new inmates could be quarantined for 14 days after being arrested. It then got 12 priority warrants from the Common Pleas Court and 12 from the Municipal Court to arrest individuals who skipped court appearances.
On July 22 the U.S. Marshals helped the Sheriff’s Office arrest five people on felony warrants out of Common Pleas Court and the Sidney Police Department helped the Sheriff’s Office arrest six people on warrants out of Municipal Court.
“This was a way to try to get the message out that if you don’t appear for your court date, you will be arrested,” Frye said.
Frye thanked the U.S. Marshals and Sidney Police Department for their help in apprehending the 11 individuals.
Lenhart spoke about security during the Aug. 4 special election and the Nov. 3 general election. In Shelby County, the Aug. 4 election is only for residents of the Sidney City Schools district, who will vote on an emergency 7.3 mill, 10-year property tax levy for the school district.
The Shelby County Board of Elections requested deputies be stationed at polling locations for next week’s election, something Lenhart said the Sheriff’s Office has never done.
Lenhart said it’s not feasible for the Sheriff’s Office to station a deputy at each precinct. He cited the office’s 10 percent budget cut, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a limited number of available deputies as his reasoning for declining to fulfill the request.
“It’s about finances and a judgment call on my part,” he said.
Lenhart also referenced the Board of Elections receiving $90,000 this year from Homeland Security for physical and cybersecurity and said that money could be used for security needs.
While the Sheriff’s Office won’t have a deputy stationed at each polling location, it will be available to respond to any needs elections officials may have.
“If there’s a problem there, we will respond and take care of it,” the sheriff said.
The Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association, a group that represents all of Ohio’s 88 sheriff’s offices, has asked Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose for help in setting statewide election security protocols for November’s election.
“We’ll come up with a plan that will provide safe, secure opportunities for elections,” Lenhart said.
“I’m really worried about folks being denied the right to vote for some reason or another, and I guarantee this sheriff and this office will respond very quickly.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.