MONROE - Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield laid into several county commissioners at a committee hearing yesterday, accusing them of making “slanderous” and “unprofessional” comments against him and his department after a similar county finance committee meeting two weeks ago.
Commissioners V. Lehr Roe, Jerry Oley, and Thomas Mell each had criticized the sheriff's department over what they said was a failure to properly explain the finances surrounding the county's 160-bed inmate dormitory facility which opened last year near the Horizon Outlet Center.
Mr. Mell had said he thought the department was “cooking the books.” Mr. Oley said, “It smells, that's what it does.” Mr. Roe said he was “all alone screaming in the woods here” in wondering why revenue from the dormitory is below budgeted estimates.
Last night, the normally soft-spoken sheriff reacted angrily. “I find those comments to be without merit, very unprofessional, slanderous, and in complete disregard of the hard work and efforts of the employees of the sheriff's office,” he said tersely, reading from a prepared statement.
He said department officials had provided information to the county board in March and April, and the revenue generated by the dormitory through its contract with the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service had, through May, 2002, exceeded expenses at the facility by $52,000. “It is totally inconceivable to me how anyone can sit on the finance committee and not know the basic workings of county finance,” the sheriff said. “There is presently a disease growing amongst [the county board] that, if allowed to continue to develop, will destroy their credibility as a board.”
Despite the sheriff's prior protestations that he would refuse to be interrupted, Mr. Oley attempted to challenge his statement.
“The sheriff is sitting up here plainly lying,” the first-term commissioner said. “I'm appalled by the statements [the sheriff] made. The proof is in the pudding, sheriff. We have a responsibility to ask questions up here. [The sherriff] doesn't have the courage to stand up here and answer questions.”