The North Bend Eagle

 

 

City asks county for changes in sheriff deal

by Nathan Arneal
Published 11/27/19

Contract for sheriff services seen as too vague, lacking
accountability.

The North Bend City Council continued negotiation of its contract with Dodge County and the Sheriff’s Office at the Nov. 19 council meeting.

The previous contract expired Oct. 1. The new contract proposed by the Dodge County Board of Supervisors is for $85,000 a year, an increase of 14 percent over the previous contract.

While at least two city councilmen said they’d like to renew the contract versus the more expensive option of the city hiring its own police officer, the entire council agreed that having the contract rewritten is a starting point.

“There’s no teeth in it,” mayor Rod Scott said.

Councilman Alex Legge said the sheriff’s department is obligated to provide policing serves with or without a contract. He said he has seen deputies on patrol in North Bend since the contract expired, and they have responded to calls.

“We’re going to get a certain amount of protection anyway,” Legge said. “They’re going to be here. They have to be and they are. The $85,000 that we’re paying for is for the extra stuff that we’re not getting.”

Of particular interest to the council was the wording of a clause in the contract regarding the enforcement North Bend’s city ordinances, which council members point to as the main reason the contract with the county exists.

The contract states, “Such services shall include the enforcement of State Statutes and may include Municipal Law Enforcement Ordinances of the City.”

At the suggestion of city attorney Tom Thomsen, who provided a memo reviewing the contract, the council wants to see the word “may” changed to “shall” when it comes to enforcing city ordinances.

“Honestly, would you as a business owner sign something that’s written that they ‘may do this,’ ‘may do that’?” Legge asked. “If we can get (the county board) to say ‘They shall do this,’ then if (the sheriff) doesn’t, he’s in breach of contract.”

The contract also states that, “the nature and extent of the services provided... shall be determined and exercised by the Dodge County Sheriff.”

In the city council’s opinion, the city of North Bend should have a say in the nature and extent of services it is being asked to pay $85,000 for, which is approximately a quarter of the city’s entire budget.

“The issue becomes,” councilman Ken Streff said, “we have to find a way to get our ordinance enforced, or we just as well not make any.”

Another clause in the contract says, “It is understood the Sheriff may enforce city law enforcement ordinances where violations occur in his presence; however, no duty is hereby imposed to seek out such violators.”

Besides the use of the word “may” again, Thomsen suggested removing the requirement that the violations have to occur in the sheriff’s presence.

“He should be obligated to enforce city law enforcement ordinances at all times,” wrote Thomsen.
Thomsen went on to call the proposed contract with the county too broad and lacking specifics.

“The contract provides no guidelines as to how much work the Sheriff is to be doing pursuant to the contract,” Thomsen wrote in his memo to the city. “There is no definition of how many man hours are to be performed by the Sheriff each month to justify the fee being charged.”

The Sheriff provides the city and the Eagle a monthly report of activity done in the “North Bend area,” which usually comes out to about eight hours a day. The most recent report, covering September, reported 242.75 hours in the North Bend area, an average of 8.1 hours a day.

City clerk Theresa Busse said that the time the sheriff’s office reports as being in the “North Bend area” starts at the cutoff ditch five miles east of North Bend and extends to the Colfax County line six miles west of town. However, the contract with the county specifies that the contract is for “law enforcement services within the corporate limits of the city.”

Streff said communication has been an issue with the DCSO as well. He said if a deputy issues a car ticket, it’s up to the city to have it towed, but the city is often not notified that a ticket has been issued.

The city drafted a letter signed by Scott addressing its concerns to the Dodge County Board of Supervisors, the body that oversees the Sheriff’s Department and is the other signatory to the law enforcement contract.

Besides summarizing the city’s objection to the wording of the contract, it also addresses Sheriff Steve Hespen telling Busse that he would not attend a city council meeting at the council’s request, but he would be willing to talk to council members individually.

Legge said he plans to attend a future county board meeting to discuss the issue further with the board of supervisors.

In other city business:

• When the Dodge County Sheriff’s office has responded to ordinance violations, the first step is giving notification to the violator. City clerk Theresa Busse said people have learned not to answer the door when a deputy knocks or not to pick up certified letters, thereby halting the process.
The council agreed to start a policy that if a certified letter is ignored, information on the violation and the violator will be published in the North Bend Eagle, which will legally count as serving notice of the violation.

• In wake of the March flood, where drains backing up with sewage caused as much or more damage that actual flood water, the council suggests people in North Bend install twist drain plug stoppers in all drains below ground level. These can be found for a few dollars at hardware stores and will prevent drains and toilets from backing up.


<<Back to the front page