This article is one of a series of editorial articles that express personal opinions and views. They are written with no pretensions to be error free. I will gladly correct substantial errors of fact. My opinions can change, depending upon my awareness of changes in factual information. It is my intent to remain focussed on specific public issues, regarding the personalities involved. For all I know, all the characters are saints, concerning their private lives and other public business...
Changes may be requested by E-MAILing the details to
After witnessing much of, and being part of, the public theater; and reading most of the Pioneer Tribune's reports concerning a continuing drama over county jail meals, I will present my distilled version of what has been a shameless public hassle at county taxpayers expense, for little more than the continued employment of Sheriff Maddox's mother as the county jail cook. No one else wants to cut to the chase, in public, so I will.
Other than a casual inquiry, "many" years ago, by Sheriff Maddox, concerning the provision of county inmate meals by the state prison, the issue remained essentially dormant, until approximately two years ago. At that time, renewed interest surfaced, as Schoolcraft County felt the increasing financial pressure of state revenue sharing cuts. At the vanguard of that interest was Commissioner Erickson, chaperoned by County Board Chairman Sholander. After meeting with the warden of the prison, the commissioners were told that the prison would supply meals, within the obvious context that the prison needed sufficient lead time to integrate the county inmates meal requirements into the prison's bureaucratic and meal production process.
State support for similar arrangements, in other communities, is a matter of public record. There has never been any serious problem for the local prison to assist Schoolcraft County in a co-operative effort to obtain better value for the taxpayer's buck. Based on the agreement for the prison to provide county jail inmate meals, Commissioner Erickson did the homework required for the county to purchase meal package and transportation containers, and related minor expense equipment. The only missing part of the tentative process, some two years ago, was the delivery of the meals from the state prison to the county jail, a distance of approximately 1.5 miles.
Due to nothing more than blatant self interest, and the politics to achieve personal goals, that 1.5 mile trip might as well have been a trip to the moon.
The mother of Sheriff Gary Maddox is employed as the county jail cook for a current wage and benefit package of $37,000 a year. For the past several years she has done little more than heat frozen meals for a maximum of 22 inmates, and done laundry work, if inmates didn't.
If the county jail inmate meals are provided by the state prison, there is no justification, for her job. Ergo, her employment would be terminated, the jail kitchen shut down, the laundry farmed out, and a significant amount of tax revenues would be saved, to be spent on other county necessities. As Ms. Maddox could have retired at any time during that period, there were no reasons of compassion to consider, just money.
But, the sheriff does not want his mother's employment terminated, and his dedication to preserving his mother's "featherbed" job takes precedence over his public responsibility to provide the citizens of Schoolcraft County the best value for their tax dollars. Like 911 business, it is his personal view of what is "right" that takes precedence over what is appropriate professional behaviour for a public servant. "Problems" regarding the availability of prison meals to county inmates is nothing more than the fabricated consequences of nepotism and self interest.
As I concluded, years ago, and as Commissioner Erickson's efforts verified, and as my recent conversation with prison warden John Norrington confirmed, the 2 year delay had been the obvious failure of Sheriff Maddox to pursue, actively, his responsibility to implement obvious cost cutting action by masking his reasons for failure to do so with contrived problems, with the obvious sanction of county commissioners that allowed the sheriff to continue a public charade.
The sequence of events that I witnessed, and read about, convinced me that Sheriff Maddox malingered, for years, at public expense, to deceive the public to preserve his mother's job, as jailhouse cook. Until it became a political election issue, both he and the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners would have done nothing until his mother retired. Within the past two years I have heard him express, twice, at public county board meetings, that he approved of the prison meal program, if no one in his department had their employment terminated. His statements, alone, confirm my conclusion.
It does not take a rocket scientist to connect the dots.
It does not take rocket science to get prison meals to the county jail in a reliable and economical manner, and all the deceit in the world changes nothing, except, hopefully, Schoolcraft County Sheriff, Gary Maddox.
I have included the following e-mail and response on two web pages, as the topics considered are part of both pages.
On 28 Jul 2004 at 7:33, Ms. ??? wrote: Alright, what I find to disbelieve is that you think that just because it is his mother that cooks, that is something that is looked down upon? What makes you think that she cooks them frozen dinners? Sharon Maddox is a wonderful, wonderful women, and a great cook might I add. What other "family baggage" are you refering to? No offense intended, but I think you lack the highly recomended sense of Judgement! Good morning. No offence taken, Ms. ???, and thank you for providing a reason to be more specific, from the position of one that pays a great deal of attention to the specifics of some local government processes and individuals. The issue is not about Ms. Maddox. I know nothing about her, and have said nothing about her. What I have said is that she is paid $37,000 per year in wages and benefits, derived from county tax revenues, to heat frozen meals, and do laundry when the inmates do not. She is costing the tax-payers some $35,000 a year, above competitive services and related savings, because she can be replaced with a prison meal service and a laundry service that is far more economical. The only reason she has her job is because Sheriff Gary Maddox has been dragging his feet, for years, regarding the meal and laundry issues, and lied about the reasons. Gary's responsibility to the general tax-paying public is first. It is his responsibility to provide the best law enforcement services for the tax-payer's dollar. His first responsibility is not to ensure that his mother retires with the highest retirement benefits possible, at the expense of other goods and services to the general public, and I might add, at the expense of more complete and nutritious meals to the jail inmates. Inmates, employees, witnesses, grocery store personnel and food bills, provide all that is requires to say, with great certainty, that Ms. Maddox's cooking is mostly frozen meals and canned soup related. "Family baggage" is the nepotistic reality of treating family related employees more favourably than non-related employees, or in a manner that fosters corruption of government processes, at public expense. Some 30% of the sheriff department is related to Gary Maddox by blood, and are very much a part of a sheriff department run on principles of anarchy as much as peer reviewed law enforcement policy. The special treatment of Ms. Maddox is a single symptom of a department wide problem, for which Sheriff Gary Maddox has the sole responsibility, and cares not, because it is "Maddox's Way". As for me lacking judgement, I am sure you are correct. Local media reports little beyond "feelgood" news. "Feelgood news" keeps the advertisers happy, and maximizes revenues, but provides a completely distorted perspective of a "Shangri La" Schoolcraft County community that does not exist. "Feelgood news" provides little objective basis on which any resident voter can base a voting choice. Without "bad news", there is little basis for choice, beyond personalities and social bonds. My lack of judgement concerns dealing with issues in a manner that provides me, and others that may care, with reasons to vote and/ or take an active interest in local politics. In the process, I have striven to separate public personas and business from those that are private.09/30/04
The Schoolcraft County Audit and Finance Committee meeting, this evening, emphasized the moral decay that I continue to write of, concerning Schoolcraft County politics and politicians.