Candidate for Erie County Sheriff, Bernie Tolbert, and Candidate for Erie County Comptroller, Vanessa Glushefski, announced a joint plan to audit the Erie County Sheriff’s Office for the extensive litigation and associated costs to taxpayers of defending Howard’s 12-year tenure in court, and for questionable overtime practices that have contributed to wrongful death and other lawsuits involving the county jails.
“We know that 22 people have died in the county jails under Tim Howard’s leadership. That is the human cost that our county has paid for 12 years of Tim Howard being in charge,” Tolbert stated. “What we don’t fully know is the dollar cost to the taxpayers and residents of Erie County. The best estimates of known lawsuits against the sheriff suggest that the county has spent at least $2.5 million to defend Howard’s mismanagement. That doesn’t account for numerous other lawsuits that have been filed but whose details have not been disclosed. And it doesn’t account for the major wrongful death lawsuits now underway in the Richard Metcalf and India Cummings deaths. It is reasonable to believe that the overall legal-related costs to Erie County may be as much as $4 million. We need to find out for sure. That’s why I am standing here with Vanessa today, to let the taxpayers of Erie County know that when we are elected and take office in January I will fully support her audit of the Sheriff’s Office and the jails as a top priority.”
Glushefski stated, “When 22 people –mothers, fathers, sons, daughters –can die within our holding center, when the DOJ issues reports citing serious concerns, and when Erie County residents feel they can no longer trust the department charged with making our community safer, there is a real problem. Holding Center detainees are innocent until proven guilty. These individuals died largely preventative deaths while awaiting their trials. This is inexcusable. We have a tool at our disposal, a system of checks and balances, but the incumbent has refused to perform an audit on the department, choosing party over people. Beginning on November 8th, I will lay the groundwork to perform a comprehensive compliance and finance audit of the department. I will not stand silent as more families lose their loved ones. We will weed out corruption, waste, and mismanagement, to save the lives of our neighbors.”
Tolbert also addressed questionable overtime policies in the Sheriff’s Office. “Two things are evident from the testimony of sheriff’s deputies in the Richard Metcalf lawsuit,” said Tolbert: “jail personnel are poorly trained and they are being pushed beyond their capacity. This combination is a recipe for disaster. It has deadly consequences, erodes staff morale, and contributes to huge, unplanned financial burdens on taxpayers. As sheriff, I will completely review and overhaul the training and overtime policies in the department. We need to give the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office the tools they need to be the best they can be and to carry out their responsibilities with professionalism and pride.”