This interview was conducted in mid-November and is reposted here for those who may have missed it when it first ran.
ST: On the 9th of November it was announced that a PAC was formed with the express purpose of recalling you from office. What is your perspective on this effort on how will it effect the way you conduct your office?
GA: It’s not going have any affect on the way I conduct my office. I will conduct my office just like I have all along. In my opinion this is an attempt to get me to change the way I conduct my office. Have I made mistakes? Sure, I’ve made mistakes. But this appears to be an attack against me for doing the job that the people of the county elected me to do.
ST: One of the things that the community of Storey County has expressed to us is the even handed way you treat the community and your focus on community based policing without having an agenda. Do you plan on doing anything to address the recall or are is it going to be business as usual?
GA: It’s going to be business as usual. The best way to keep our community safe is by working with the community. I think I have done that over the last six years and will continue to do that as long as the people of the community want me to be here. I’m not picking on anybody. Everybody in the community gets the same treatment. If that rubs some folks the wrong way, I don’t really know what to say. The people of the County deserve effective Law Enforcement and I think thats what we are doing regardless on how it’s spun by a few specific interests.
ST: One of the specific issues mentioned in the press release was concern about expenses incurred by the county on recent terminations made at the Sheriff’s Office. Can you comment on that?
GA: There was nothing wrong with the terminations. The County Manager has said IN open public meetings that none of the terminations are done in a vacuum. He is involved, Human Resources are involved, Legal Council is consulted. In the two terminations in question, all of the people who had a say in the matter were in concurrence with the decision to terminate. Typically what happens it that a terminated employee will make any claim and allegation and lawsuit they can possibly file. There comes a point where you have to decide, dollars and cents, is it cheaper to pay it to go away or cheaper to defend it. Those weren’t my decisions to make. Those are the County Manager and the County Commissioners making those decisions. So the two settlements that were made, that was go away money. It had nothing to do with the validity and veracity of the grounds to terminate in the first place.
I’ve got one that is still in pending action that left four security doors open in the jail and allowed an escape. But that doesn’t prevent the terminated employee from making all sorts of ridiculous claims. The county continues to defend those but the decision to settle the case, that is on the Commissioners. I would just as soon fight those cases because I believe they were terminated for just cause.
I think that everybody is, from their own perspectives, are looking out for the wellbeing of the citizens. And yes, they look at the dollars and cents of it. And yes, if it is cheaper to pay it and make it go away then so be it. Principal has a price. I am the type of individual that would just as soon stand on my principals.
ST: With respect to the number of employees that have been terminated within your Office, should citizens be concerned with the turnover with personnel at the Sheriff’s Office?
GA: It depends on how you look at it. If you compare it with other Storey County entities, our turnover is higher that that of other Storey County entities, but this isn’t Public Works or the County Offices, this is Law Enforcement. Law Enforcement is a whole other world. Not everybody is meant to be a cop no matter how badly they want to be a cop. Not too long ago, Human Resources gave the turnover numbers. As it turns out, the Fire Department had as much turnover as the Sheriff’s Office. Not casting them in a bad light, but that is a high stress job, there is a lot of competition in the Fire and as a result there is some turnover. It’ is the same in Law Enforcement. People come and people go, but people also don’t make it through their training which is what the majority of terminations have been in the Sheriff’s Office. They have been probationary releases because the individual just wasn’t making it in Law Enforcement in general or they didn’t make it with the attitude and mentality that is needed for our community. That is all part of the selection process. I’m not going to keep somebody who is not going to be able to provide proper service to our citizens.
ST: With respect to the budget and how you have been the steward of taxpayer dollars, do you have any comment on how you have managed your budget?
GA: A lot of the comments made regarding the budget are erroneous. The facts are twisted and in some cases they are outright fabrications. During the last election there were even County Officials claiming I had blown my budget out. I ask every taxpayer to go look at every budgets I’ve prepared and executed and find one that was blown out. Yes, there are line items that have gone over, but there aren’t any budgets that are “blown out”. Since I have been in office, there is only one year that you can find an overage in my annual budget. That overage came from the County improperly expensing the Sheriff’s Office. Again, the County Manager has acknowledged this fact in public meetings. I think I have done a good job of spending taxpayer money and the budget has been held to a reasonable amount. Last year I asked for more money because I was asked to provide more services. I gave them the amount I thought it would cost and they decided it was too costly for them, and that’s fine. The decision is up to the Commissioners. They are the ones elected to be the keepers of the taxpayers dollars. But when they come to me and ask me “What will it cost to provide service to the level that meets your standards and level of protection to the community” and I give it to them and then they turn around and attack me on it, it seems kind of ridiculous.
ST: What is the impact of the Northeast area of Storey County on your Office?
GA: There is very little change in Lockwood but the Industrial Park, sure there is more interaction. We are seeing more traffic related issues and more crashes. Any time you have more people, you are going to have more issues. We have not seen an uptick in criminal conduct, but it is definitely keeping my staff more occupied with the traffic issues. Is it having an impact, sure, but for the most part it’s minimal. That is why they asked me to look at my budget last year. I was told they wanted to see more coverage in the Industrial Park. These increases would have come from providing additional staffing in the Industrial park. but then to have the Commissioners later say we have too many deputies to begin with seems like I’m being set up and then attack me for it and then say we have too many cops to begin with.
ST: Your office operates, like other rural counties , as Coroner. What is your level of involvement and what is the impact of operating as Coroner?
GA: The way the law is set up in the rural Counties, the Sheriff is set up as the ex-officio Coroner and the Deputies are the Deputy Coroners. It is well within our competencies. Any case, whether it is a property crime or a death investigation, they are so varied that anything can be overwhelming. Any time we get something that stretches or exceeds our abilities or resources, we have great partners all around the area that have and will come in to assist us on things. But we do get a surprising number of deaths in the county. Most of them are Coroner cases or hospice cases which are the least burdensome for us. But Coroner cases happen all the time but most of them don’t rise to the level of attention that a few have. Most of the time we go in and do our investigation and go about our business. If and when we have something that exceeds our abilities and resources then we call for assistance. But my staff is capable and competent to handle death investigations.
ST: In closing, Is there anything else you would like to share with the community about the recall effort?
GA: Since the 2014 election, there have been a lot of false allegations and twisting of facts. We just saw a particularly nasty Presidential Campaign and now there is a movement afoot to throw us back into similar campaign. At the most, if Storey County has a special election, the election only goes through the current term whether i retain my office or not, and then we go right back into another election and potential changes in the Office. The people who keep accusing me of squandering taxpayer dollars or blowing up my budget are the ones making these allegations against me and they are the ones causing the county to spend money to defend those allegations. With this recall effort they are now the ones who will cause the county to spend money on this special election. All because they don’t like the way I am doing the job the voters elected me to do.