Saturday, October 25, 2008


On Wednesday of this week Republican Stark County sheriff candidate and former Alliance police chief Larry Dordea made good on his word given at the Stark County Fair to the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) to discuss his issues on the management of the sheriff's office.

Actually the conversation took place yesterday.

The issues discussed included:

1. The handling of the Steffey case.
2. Emergency Response capability.
3. The budget of the office.
4. Services provided by the office.
5. Employee relations.
6. 9-1-1 central dispatch.
7. The safety of Stark County.

On the Steffey case: The main point of our conversation was Dordea's emphasis that the Steffey matter was very preventable. According to the challenger, had Sheriff Swanson anticipated that sooner or later that his staff would encounter a Steffey situation, he could have (should have) devised alternative, flexible ways to deal with this inevitability as well as others that will come along down the line. Dordea says that Swanson is a "by the book" leader who demonstrates no confidence in his personnel to deal with such incidents in a dynamic way. He promises to change Swanson's way of doing.

Emergency response: Dordea says that Swanson has refused requests for Sheriff's Emergency Response Team (SERT) assistance to area subdivision police operations (Dordea and that the unit has not trained in years). Moreover, he cites instances where SWAT team assistance has been provided under "mutual aid" by the likes of Canton and Alliance because of Swanson's denial of use. Dordea, if elected, promises to reorganize and restructure SERT so that it is up-to-date trained and available to all of law enforcement throughout Stark County.

Sheriff's budget: The former Alliance police chief made a comparison to The Report. He said that according to the Federal Annual Certification Report for 2003, Sheriff Swanson reported a budget of $12+ million. In 2007 the sheriff reported $17+ million - a 38% increase. He further said that he is mystified where all the increased money has gone necessitating the laying off of staff in 2008. Dordea has reason to believe that if Swanson is re-elected, he plans a major layoff in March, 2009. If elected, Dordea plans on initiating a thorough review of finances and to institute efficiencies to maintain, if not expand, operations. Dordea also says that Sheriff Swanson has not effectively used "asset forfeiture dollars" as a source of revenues to support the operations of the department. He promises to reconstitute the narcotics law enforcement group of the department and make it profitable to Stark County taxpayers by seizing and selling illicit drug-connected property.

Sheriff's services: Dordea points out that one of the major functions of the sheriff's department is road patrol. As matters stand now, only one, sometimes two cars are out patrolling the township/suburban areas of Stark County. He asserts he can change this coverage without more personnel cost to Stark County. How? He plans to use a program that Sheriff Swanson has implemented (which Dordea praises) where the sheriff deputizes retired/reserve police officers which gives them countywide jurisdiction. The deputization empowers the recipients to earn income working for third party security users. But he would take the program one step further. Dordea would ask those deputized to give back to Stark County. He wants them to give back 16 hours annually to the Stark County community. How would the donated hours be used? For one, according to the candidate, these "volitional deputies" could be a source for the personnel needed to staff additional patrols throughout the rural and suburban areas of Stark County.

Employee relations: Dordea claims that 30 to 40 of the deputies currently on Swanson's staff secretly support his candidacy (afraid of recrimination, if they go public). Moreover, he says that he has four such employees on his "spot dial" list. Morale, according to Dordea, is low. Dordea's reasons for saying this? First, he says deputies tell him there is no "made available routinely to the deputies" policy manual (only a handbook) for deputies to check with to know what the expectations of the job are. Second, that the policy manual (which Dordea says is closeted away) hasn't been changed in 20 years. What's Dodea's remedy? Within six months of becoming sheriff, he will, in a documented format, communicate to each employee his expectation of the employee. Moreover, he will require each employee to detail his/her expectations. Dordea's plans on auditing each and every employee classification within the department. Dordea himself plans to become a "working" sheriff in the sense he will be taking on the responsibilities of one of the chief deputies. That's how - he says - he can save the department the salary and benefits of one chief deputy. He is open to either Perez or McDonald staying on but each would have to reapply. Dordea promises not to hire political friends merely because of that relationship. Any hires, according to him, have to be from among the best that Stark County has to offer.

9-1-1 central dispatch. Early on in the campaign The Report was critical of Dordea for appearing to being into turfism on the central dispatch issue (See "Is Dordea too provincial to be Stark County sheriff). Dordea says The Report misunderstood the reported (by The Alliance Review) exchange between him and Stark County commissioner Jane Vignos and 9-1-1 centralization czar Randy Gonzalez when they appeared before Alliance City Council asking for a resolution supporting centralized 9-1-1. Dordea says that he is for centralized 9-1-1 but that the county needs to proceed cautiously to ensure that emergency responders are totally behind it when it gets implemented. He takes no position on whether there should be one center with a backup or three centers. However, he does want to know why a wall separates the call takers from the dispatchers at the 9-1-1 unit based at the Stark County sheriff's facility on Atlantic Boulevard.

Safety of Stark County: Dordea says that a precondition for meaningful economic development in Stark County is for the county to become known as a safe place to locate. He points to his record as police chief in Alliance as having provided the leadership to achieve a reputation for being criminal unfriendly and therefore a safe and desirable place to locate. He says there is a perception that Stark County is unsafe. Although he sees some significant basis for the perception, he does not draw the conclusion that Stark County is unsafe. What he does say, is that the perception must be changed if Stark County is to become a thriving community. For him, changing the perception is a high priority.

So there you have it folks. The Report spoke with Mr. Dordea for nearly two hours.

Questions: What do you think of this challenger's take on the issues? his positions? his criticisms of Swanson's leadership? For Swanson supporters, where is Dordea off base? Does he demonstrate by the content of his campaign (as alleged by Swanson) that he is not prepared to step up to being county sheriff? Maybe even Sheriff Swanson himself will respond via the comments? With just a little over one week before the election, don't we all owe to ourselves and to the community at large to fully discuss the quality or lack of quality of the Stark County sheriff department operations?

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