by Darlene Taylor and Matt Harvey
CLARKSBURG -- The sheriff's department wants to expand the Harrison County Corrections Program by $100,000 next fiscal year, commissioners were told in a closed-door session.
The request would cover an additional uniformed deputy, full-time administrative assistant and general expenditures, the sheriff said following the meeting.
Commissioners did not approve the funding request during Thursday's meeting. But at the request of Sheriff Jim Jack, commissioners agreed to listen to a presentation about it in a private executive session.
Commissioners at first balked at discussing the issue in private. But they agreed after Jack said it involved personnel matters.
Afterward, commission President Roger Diaz said discussions involved five specific people dealing with the operation of the home confinement office, as well as their work and job performance.
"They brought up certain matters that had to do with budgeting and employee salary changes," said Assistant Prosecutor Robert Andre. "The presentation was part of the foundation of these other personnel-related items that had to do with changes in pay."
Andre said the session had to do with numbers and budgets.
"My impression was the power point presentation was to show the numbers to back up the salary changes and the personnel changes that they were asking for. Normally, all salary and personnel matters are dealt with in executive session, anyway," Andre said.
Commissioner Ron Watson said they talked about personnel issues throughout the presentation. Harrison County Deputy Greg Scolapio, home confinement officer, had issues with defendants knowing particulars of the program, Watson said.
"I think anything that is not going to infringe on public safety or identify personnel should be open and in the sunshine," Watson said. "Some very sensitive areas were addressed, and it was probably done correctly."
Certain things have to be done in executive session due to privacy laws, said Commissioner Frank "Chunki" Angotti.
"There were certain things that had to do with personnel in the presentation. Discussing employees, salaries and job performance, is the cause for it," Angotti said.
Lew Brewer, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, said officials can discuss personnel matters in an executive session, "but you can't discuss general personnel matters."
"General personnel matters would be like, 'How many people would we hire to perform a specific function? How many jail guards do we need? Or how many patrolmen do we need for a road shift?'" Brewer said.
A specific personnel matter that can be discussed in private might involve something like "whether to put Mr. Jones on home confinement ... or whether to leave him as a bailiff," Brewer said.
"When you say they don't actually have any positions open yet, you're really in a gray area. I don't know how to answer that question," Brewer said.
The additional money would save the county an estimated $300,000 a year, said Scolapio. The savings would come because it's cheaper to house Harrison County inmates in the local corrections program than it is in the regional jail system, Scolapio indicated.
Scolapio spoke after the executive session, which lasted more than 90 minutes, as did Commissioner Ron Watson.
"We took it under advisement. It's certainly sellable," Watson said. "We see a need for additional staff and support and there is a definite cost benefit to the county."
A $75,000 start-up loan to the program has been repaid, Scolapio said.