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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Sheriff confronts commissioner about Justice Center complaints

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend, left, expresses is frustration during Monday's meeting with the Linn County Commission. (Screen capture/Linn County Kansas Live Stream)

MOUND CITY – A discussion about reviewing tabled items at the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, March 13, turned heated as Commissioner Jim Johnson started talking about the cost of the Justice Center.

Johnson brought up the $900,000 per year in tax money that the Justice Center was costing and then the $1 million increase in the sheriff’s budget in the past year.

Sheriff Kevin Friend said, “That wasn’t just the jail, Mr. Johnson.” He continued telling Johnson not to say it like it’s just the jail because it was also the court, prosecutor’s office, the information technology department and the public spaces that the sheriff’s budget was now expected to cover.

Instead of 8,000 square feet of maintenance, the sheriff’s budget covers 44,000 square feet, explained Friend.

Johnson said he understood that.

“I do not know what you do or do not understand,” said Friend, “but what I need you to understand is that I did not raise the jail budget $1 million to take care of my office, and that’s how you say it every time.”

“You’ve been doing this crap to the firehouse, the health department, and its getting a little bit tiring,” said Friend, “You’ve got your own agenda and I’m sick and tired of it.”

Johnson said he did not have an agenda.

“The hell you don’t,” said Friend. “Don’t blame me for every problem.”

“I not blaming you,” said Johnson.

Friend told the commissioners that they have a plan: the Linn County Comprehensive Plan approved by the commission last fall.

He said he just was sitting there reading it, and the commission should follow it.

It is what the people want, Friend said. Not what the commissioners want. Not what the sheriff wants. It’s what the people want.

“Follow the plan,” said Friend. “Don’t blame me for your million dollar building over here. I did not vote for it.”

Johnson said he did not vote for the jail either.

Friend said he did not vote for it because it was in the wrong place. He said it needed to be somewhere that it could be built onto one day and where the new building sits was not the place.

Johnson said he questioned that before it was built.

Friend said that was great, and that everyone could question the vote to build it. But it is built now, he added.

Johnson nobody told us how we were going to pay for the operating costs.

Friend said that the jail was making money now.

Johnson told him that he did not see it that way.

“What’s the money doing sitting in an account not doing anything?” asked Friend, adding the money being made should be put back into operations of the center.

Friend told Johnson to stop sitting there griping about it and do something. He pointed out to the commissioners that on Jan. 9, some of his staff had come to the commissioners about a simple tweak in policy and the commission still has not voted on the proposal.

On Jan. 9, Undersheriff Bobby Johnson had asked the commission to change the policy on how the employees who work 12-hour shifts at the sheriff’s office were paid for holidays and to also look into how sick leave was accrued for the 12-hour employees.

“My people are getting discouraged,” Friend said. “I’m frustrated. We need to do something for the people instead of sitting here and arguing about what we are going to do for the people.

“You’ve got a plan, you paid a load of money for it. I follow it maybe you should too.”

At Commission Chair Danny McCullough’s suggestion, the commission took a 10 minute break following the exchange.

Other topics of this discussion were getting information prepared for next week’s meeting to discuss employee compensation and the health department.

Hightower suggested doing a survey of the county employees to see what they were happy with or unhappy about. Hightower offered to talk with Pam Cannon in mapping, to set up the survey online because she had done the one for the comprehensive plan. The commissioners agreed.

Hightower said that he would look at several surveys to develop questions and the commissioners should decide together what the questions should be. County Clerk David Lamb said he also had a copy of a survey that he had taken for the Kansas Association of Counties.

Supervisory training, pay and benefits, corporate culture are the foundation pieces that need to be changed.

Hightower asked if Lamb could give commissioners the last six years of health department budgets for the commissioners so they could look them over before the meeting.

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