Editor's Note: This article corrects that Alan Word is the former sheriff of Williams County. The current sheriff is Steven Towns.
STRYKER, Ohio — Regional jail officials learned Wednesday that Toledo may not be able to pay its quarterly bill for inmates the city sends to the facility in Williams County.
Officials of the regional jail, formally known as the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, said the loss of the nearly $1.4 million in revenue from Toledo, which is due Oct. 1, could result in layoffs of jail staff and a possible mothballing of the 638-bed facility.
Adam Loukx, Toledo law director, told the facility’s financial overview committee that Toledo doesn’t have the money in its budget to pay its share of the jail’s operating costs. The city’s bill is calculated based on the 228 beds Toledo has reserved at the facility.
“The city’s financial shape is such that we do not have a lot of funds,” Mr. Loukx said. “Today, we don’t have any appropriations, and I don’t have the ability to tell you that we will or won’t on Oct. 1 have any additional monies.”
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said Tuesday night that the city will continue trying to share inmate incarceration costs with Lucas County, a controversial policy put into place by the late Mayor D. Michael Collins, which has led to Toledo’s pending unpaid quarterly bill.
Mayor Collins, in an attempt to balance the budget, ordered police to use state law to issue charges rather than the municipal code.
It was an adjustment he believed would hold the county responsible for the costs of presentenced inmates being held at the county jail and those sentenced out of Toledo Municipal Court to the jail in Stryker.
“Why should county residents who live in Toledo have to pay more than county residents that don’t?” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said in the statement released by her staff. The statement went on to say that, “despite some allegations to the contrary, the City of Toledo fulfills its obligations and continues to work toward a solution that is acceptable to all parties and is in the best interest of its citizens.”
Former Williams County Sheriff Alan Word, who is a member of the finance overview committee, said the shortfall caused by Toledo not paying its share would mean the jail will only have enough money to operate through Dec. 1, and some of the facility’s 200 correction officers, staff, and contract workers would lose their jobs.
“This facility is an icon. It’s in textbooks on the collegiate level,” Mr. Word said. “What we are witnessing is the demise of CCNO because it cannot operate. With a shortfall we will not make it through the end of the year.”
Dennis Sullivan, the jail’s director of security and operations, said the shortfall caused by Toledo not paying its share will mean it will only have enough money to operate 108 beds.
The finance overview committee voted to have the jail’s governing board meet on Sept. 25 to review its options, including sending employee layoff notices, if Toledo doesn’t come up with its quarterly payment. The meeting will be held at the Henry County Emergency Operations Center in Napoleon.
Pete Gerken, a Lucas County commissioner and regional jail board member, said the shortfall could spell the end of a nationally recognized criminal justice facility.
Mr. Gerken said a stabilization plan has been offered to the city to resolve the dispute, but so far the city has not accepted it. The proposal, which would cover the three years until the county can construct and open a new county jail, would have the county absorb about $4 million of the city’s nearly $11 million annual costs for housing pretrial inmates and others sentenced to CCNO.
“We are unable to find a political solution to this problem. This is unfair to the other counties,” he told the committee. “We are working hard to keep the dispute out of this board. It does not belong here.”
Mr. Loukx later told the committee that an agreement hasn’t been reached with the county but the city will continue working on the issue until Oct. 1 “to find some sort of resolution.”
Jim Dennis, CCNO executive director, said the city would be in violation of the operating agreement if it fails to make the payment on Oct. 1, and it would be up to the board to make any decision on filing a lawsuit against Toledo for failing to comply with the agreement.
“That will be up for discussion for the board at next week’s meeting,” he said.
Mr. Gerken told The Blade that the board should take any appropriate legal action against Toledo if the payment is not made before the due date.
“If the city doesn’t pay, then we have no choice. We are urging the city to meet with us promptly and resolve the matter,” he said. “This is the biggest criminal justice-public safety crisis we have faced in over a decade.”
The CCNO board in June authorized Mr. Dennis to hire an outside attorney to handle possible, unspecified litigation. The action was taken after an executive session. Toledo did not have a representative at the meeting.
In May, the board amended the jail’s operating agreement to codify the billing practices in place for 25 years that held each member community responsible for paying the costs of inmates sentenced from their jurisdiction. Toledo voted against the change.
Mr. Loukx said the city based its budget appropriation to fund CCNO on the jail policy in place before the agreement was amended. He said it allowed the city to receive credits for beds that are occupied by prisoners charged under the Ohio Revised Code. As of last week, 90 of the city's 228 beds were being used to house prisoners held under the Toledo Municipal Code, he said.
‘Not a deadbeat’
“The city is not a deadbeat. At the time we made the budget we did it in accordance with what the law was,” Mr. Loukx said. “As of Friday we had 90 TMC people in those beds. The rest are ORC prisoners for which we have no responsibility.”
The new rule adopted in May required “any municipality with a municipal court” to pay for prisoners processed by that court.
Mr. Loukx called that “a raw deal,” that he said treats Toledo differently from other jurisdictions, which routinely have their jail costs covered under state criminal statutes rather than local statutes.
Former mayor and current mayoral candidate Mike Bell called for an independent audit of the city’s finances.
“The question I have is, what happened to the money that was allocated to be able to pay that bill? Where’s it at?” Mr. Bell said.
He said that, when he was in office, the city and county were “pretty close to coming up with a solution to build that jail.” He called the city’s current strategy of trying to shift expenses to the county unfair.
Toledo City Councilman Sandy Spang, also a mayoral candidate, called on the city and county officials to negotiate a resolution.
“Negotiations need to take place with the county commissioners to define the city's contribution to the new jail as well as a mutually agreed upon transition to the county assuming financial responsibility for individuals charged under the ORC,” she said. “This must be resolved soon to ensure the stability of our local criminal justice system ...’’
Sandy Drabik Collins, a retired lawyer and widow of Mayor Collins who is running for the office, said she is troubled that the viability of the regional jail is being threatened, but she doesn't believe the city should pay for costs of sentenced misdemeanants.
“I think it has been a good facility and a safe place to take people into custody,” she said.
Carty Finkbeiner, a three-time mayor who is running again, said he would seek the input of the police chief, county sheriff, and safety director for their recommendation, then ask the city finance director if the city could make it work financially.
“It is just amazing to me that this got dropped on us overnight,” he said.
Former councilman Mike Ferner, who also is running for mayor, said the city should have been prepared to pay the jail bill regardless of the dispute with the county.
He called on city officials to push state authorities to restore local funding to help Toledo's budget woes.
The Hicks-Hudson administration on June 9 asked Toledo City Council to approve authorizing the mayor to give notice to withdraw as a member of CCNO.
The ordinance languished in committee until Wednesday when council’s public safety committee again reviewed it. Councilman Theresa Gabriel recommended the request be sent back to the administration instead of letting the full council vote on it Wednesday at its 4 p.m. meeting.
“There are too many unanswered questions,” Ms. Gabriel said.
Too many beds
John Madigan, a senior attorney for the city, told council that Toledoans are paying for 228 beds, which is more than the city needs.
Chief of Staff Bob Reinbolt said the city will be on the hook for 228 beds in 2016 because it missed a deadline Tuesday by which it had to inform the CCNO board of the intent to withdraw.
“We are trying to work with the county and CCNO,” Mr. Reinbolt said. “Yes we may go to court. ... If they are not putting pressure on us, we shouldn’t put pressure on them. Everyone has to work together on this.”
Mr. Reinbolt stressed that the city does not have the money to make the 2015 fourth-quarter payment.
According to the ordinance council declined to vote on Wednesday, “Toledo has an agreement to send persons sentenced by the Toledo Municipal Court for misdemeanor violation to the commission’s regional jail. ... The city administration has been advised that the Corrections Commission board intends to vote to amend the restated organizational and operational agreement of the regional jail to require the city of Toledo to pay for no less than 228 jail beds per year regardless of how many jail beds the city actually uses.”
The proposed amendments also require the city to pay for offenders sentenced in Toledo Municipal Court under the Ohio Revised Code instead of requiring Lucas County to pay for such offenders as required by Ohio law.
Mr. Madigan said Toledo wants to send its inmates to a county facility and have the county pick up the cost — something he said other big cities in Ohio get from their county governments.
Staff writers Ignazio Messina, Tom Troy, and Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.
Contact Mark Reiter at: email@example.com or 419-724-6199.
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