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I supported, promoted, and voted for Grant Harris as sheriff of Schoolcraft County, because, at the time, and based upon what I knew, he was the best of the candidates. I now have reasons to believe that even though he had better formal credentials as a lawman and supervisor, than other candidates, he is, after 9 months on the job, proving to me to be little better than ex-sheriff Gary Maddox. Mea Culpa!
Under Harris's watch, twice convicted sex offender, retired teacher Jon Neil Schuster, 71, was let out of jail while serving time for his second sexual predation conviction, to attend City of Manistique public business, because "he was considered to be in the best interests of the city" by a majority of Manistique City Council members and administration. I have reason to believe that a few movers and shakers in the community and local government may still worship and advocate for what I understood, for years, to be a professional sexual predator and con man.
While serving that second sentence in the Schoolcraft County Jail, Shuster was arraigned for sexually victimizing another jail inmate and distributing "controlled substance" contraband to other inmates, while in jail. I listened to him in court, last week, plead "Not guilty" and await the courts' subsequent action. (Correction and apology: The same day I saw Shuster arraigned, I witnessed local bad-boy, Jason Collins, plead guilty to ~$500,000? (poor courtroom acoustics and his attorney was not speaking up for my benefit) of fraudulent conversion of his victims' money, for which he is due to be sentenced. Shuster did not plead guilty.)
Since almost ten percent of Schoolcraft County electors voted for an ex-Schoolcraft County Sheriff Department employee-convicted sex offender candidate for sheriff, and few others had the courage to speak out about it, I am not surprised by the recent turn of events, but I am seriously disappointed that the new sheriff is associated with a "get outa jail free" policy for a twice convicted sexual predator loser shooting for serious prison time and a bunk with Bubba, for his latest alleged offense committed in the Schoolcraft County Jail.
Then there is the ludicrous overtime pay collected by sheriff department personnel due to what I determined, while seeking answers last year, to be a serious lack of responsible shift and duty scheduling of department employees. A year ago I came to understand how part time and full time personnel could collect overtime pay without fulfilling their full or part-time employment obligations; mostly, the employees set their own schedules based upon little more than whimsical desires, and a union contract term that enables them to collect overtime for unscheduled hours worked.
A fictional example, one of many, real and imaginary: I am scheduled to work, tomorrow, and you the following day. We agree to swap scheduled hours so that you can attend a tryst in Escanaba, tomorrow, and I can go, the following day, to hunt trout in the Two Hearted. We then collect overtime for hours worked that were not scheduled, regardless of whether we put in a full schedule of work hours, or not, because the supervisory oversight of hours is "pencil whipped", and, like many city and county public employees in Schoolcraft County, there is no attempt to keep folk honest with a "time clock".
During my short term as city councilman I came to understand the situation: Trust me, I wouldn't lie! Ergo, Ta Daa! Easy money for a short work week! From my understanding, sheriff department employees learned well with the tutelage of Master Maddox, a practitioner of graft and grift, as I have documented over the years.
Part of the finances based dispute concerns the county board's stated intent to refuse state grant funding for secondary road sheriff patrols. Sounds like an irresponsible invitation to crime, doesn't it? Nope, it wasn't. It is the board's attempt to reduce the overtime burden for expenses paid by all county residents incurred during road patrol services paid for by a state grant.
Schoolcraft County Sheriff Harris admitted that his department takes state grant money for secondary road patrol to pay for other rural services, the consequences of which is false accounting of mandated services co-mingled with the discretionary road patrol service. If I was a county board member, I definitely would not fund overtime for expenses that are not met and accounted for in a responsible manner!
No one mandated sheriff department responsibilities to be a piece of cake to be savored, saved, and eaten at public expense. If sheriff department employees do not want to do that which they were hired and paid to do, fire them! In this part of the world, the pay and benefits of sheriff department personnel, compared to most private employment, is sufficient employment incentive for quality folks with quality supervision, that does not require a top heavy bureaucracy in "Podunk".
Like the necessary requirements of a public service military career, law enforcement should not center on employees' personal desires. If Undersheriff Gierke doesn't want to do that for which he was hired, consistent with the terms of his employment, then he should quit, or be fired. If Sheriff Harris doesn't want to perform consistent with his election platform, and subsequent representations, recall him, or give another candidate a shot at the brass ring at the next appropriate election. The worst that can happen is we get another lying "I Wanna".
I witnessed, and, hopefully, recorded Gierke state, in so many words that, "I wanna full time, daytime position, for at least a year, so that I can claim increased public retirement benefits paid for by those with none-of-the-above."
One of the reasons that I voted for Harris was, to the best of my knowledge and limited acquaintanceship, he never lied to me. After stating at a county board meeting that he needed his undersheriff to provide much needed supervision on a shift other than dayshift, and a part time undersheriff worked for him as it did for ex-Sheriff Maddox, I now understand that he has denied claiming any of the above, and for those and other reasons has sought professional private legal advice, at tax-payers expense, with the stated intent of suing the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners for their good faith attempts to reign in a Schoolcraft County Sheriff Department that continues the spendthrift and deceptive ways of yesteryear.
I do not know what the terms of Undersheriff Gierke's employment were, but according to a "dog and pony show" I witnessed at a Schoolcraft County Board meeting a few weeks ago, I got the distinct impression that the roles and duties of sheriff and undersheriff have been reversed. A dominating and aggressive county employee, Undersheriff Gierke, expounded the virtues and necessity of having almost as much supervision as supervised, hiring himself full time, and rewarding unidentified department personnel with rank and pay increases to ensure that they, and others, do their jobs properly; jobs for which they are already being paid to do properly!
For those that wish to hear, first hand, a 1 hour, 9MB, mp3 shirt-pocket recording of the "Us vs Them" discourse that prompted this web page, click here.
For those that wish to read all the documents I could round up, relative to the 09/15/09 Schoolcraft County Board of Supervisors' sheriff business, click here.
Both Gierke and Harris tried to sell the county board on the necessity of a discretionary sheriff department crime-fighting-investigative unit, while admitting, in context, that they had a great deal of trouble meeting their existing mandated responsibilities, with an increased budget, in times of declining revenues! I heard the equivalent of "This community needs a "CSI Las Vegas" unit" in the same manner as I heard, not too long ago, the equivalent of "This county needs a Coast Guard", for an economically depressed ~1200 square miles county with some 47 linear miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, and a sparse population of ~10,000 souls!
It has not been too long since Sheriff Grant Harris, with unknown advocates influencing, privately, the commissioners public business, "convinced" a majority of weak willed county board members the necessity of a Great Lakes marine rescue and patrol unit, based upon no comparison between the non-existent losses due to the absence of such a unit, versus the costs of having one.
Now, Undersheriff Mike Gierke explains that more money and resources are required to prevent the inevitable consequences of on-going county jail malfeasance, elective sheriff department business, and whimsical personnel scheduling, while at the same time self-promoting the additional public expense of his claimed skills and record that have little to nothing to do with most of the Schoolcraft County Sheriff Department mandated responsibilities woes that he has voiced little to no interest in curtailing.
As I understand much of which I witnessed, and read, like a great deal of other public business, there is too much of "I wanna", disguised as contrived necessary public expenditure. As I suggested at a previous county board meeting, why not spend the ~$500,000 of cash collected under false pretenses for E911 operating expenses, that no one has considered returning to the public from which it was swindled, before imposing on city residents that must finance their own law enforcement personnel, additional expenses to finance law enforcement for those that choose to live in isolated rural environments, and engage in risky rural hobbies and occupations?
For all the expensive history lesson from Zausmer, Kaufman, August, Caldwell and Tayler, P.C., and the recent county board meetings I attended, I fail to understand the attorney letter's relevance to that which I have witnessed and understood, or not, to date. I do not know what mandatory, common-law or legislated, Michigan sheriff responsibilities the Schoolcraft County Board refused to fund, or denied the Schoolcraft County Sheriff Department. Anyone wish to enlighten me?
Obviously, it cannot be the terms of Gierke's full time employment because that agreement, as I heard discussed in public, was subject to him accepting shift work to provide "professional" supervision where needed. It cannot be the original terms of his employment, because, to the best of my understanding of that which I witnessed, his employment was based on a part time offer, including shift work, that he accepted, based upon decades of past county practice. As Gierke has left no doubt in anyone's mind that he does not intend to work other than days, with conditions that will inflate, significantly, the sheriff department's budget, what has he or Harris got to bitch about?
If Undersheriff Gierke, after being hired, doesn't like the terms of his employment, and wants to be "boss" and reinvent the sheriff department outside of county budget restraints, his options are pretty clear. Unless the sheriff lied to him, the public, and the county board, his options are pretty clear.
Sheriff Harris, I do not want or need to pay for another irresponsible "I wanna" lying asshole on the county payroll.
The following is the "public comments" of Doug Erickson, that he intended to read at the last board meeting we attended. He chose not to, because the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners expressed civilized action to resolve the standoff with the sheriff department. Now, with his awareness of Sheriff Harris hiring outside legal guns, at public expense, to force a resolution of a local disagreement concerning public responsibilities and finances, like me, Erickson wishes to be heard.
Note: As with a great deal of public business that I might find common ground with Erickson, and a few others of a distinct vocal minority, I represent my own independent view of public business, as does Erickson. What I wrote above, represents my independent understanding of what I perceived, before I added to this page, below, a copy of Erickson's independent written public comments he considered reading at the last county board meeting.
Sheriff Harris's platform statement published in the Pioneer Tribune
Minutes of Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting, 09/15/09, regarding the sheriff department budget dispute + other related documentation.
The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners had published, in the October 15, 2009, edition of the Pioneer Tribune newspaper, the linked informative statement concerning the Board's position in the ongoing financial dispute with the Schoolcraft County Sheriff Department.
I attended the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting, of 10/20/09, and viewed, favorably, the county board's continued attempt to deal in a civilized manner with the pending Schoolcraft County Sheriff Department budget busting business. From my perspective, even if the consequences of the current finances based disagreement costs my tax revenue to help feed parasitic attorneys, I would rather pay for the additional expense of a failed effort to act in an ethical and responsible manner than sanction a deceitful, cowardly extortionist who retained private legal councel for which it is his written intention to have me, and others, pay the bills; the details of which are recorded, below.
This is a recording of the sheriff department business at the 10/20/09 Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Peter C. Markham - Manistique.org