For months now the Sussex County legislative delegation, the Sheriff, and individual Freeholders have been engaged in talks with county governments and union representatives in an effort to find jobs for PBA corrections officers who might be displaced because of bail reform legislation that went into effect in 2017. The new law has caused a decline in county jail population, because it no longer keeps non-violent offenders locked up just because of their financial inability to post the cost of bail.
The good news is that these efforts have secured jobs for EVERYONE who wants one, with many available right now – despite the fact that the Sussex County Jail will not be closing, just cutting back. These talks have been so successful that they might produce a DEMAND for corrections officers, with more job openings than applicants.
Unfortunately, the bureaucracy of Sussex County government has raised its ugly head, in the person of County Administrator Greg Poff. Poff is a political ally of former Freeholder Board boss George Graham, an avowed enemy of Republican Sheriff Mike Strada. Graham lost control of the Freeholder Board last year, when the reform team of Republicans Dawn Fantasia and Josh Hertzberg defeated two incumbents allied with Graham. Sheriff Strada sided with the Republican reformers.
Now Graham is conducting his own “revenge tour” and has openly expressed his hatred and contempt for Sheriff Strada, going so far as to recruit a supporter of Democrat Governor Phil Murphy to run against him. Graham turned Wednesday’s Freeholder Board meeting into political theater, and lied about who was responsible for maintaining the jail while Freeholder boss Graham was in charge. Boss Graham, who is not running for re-election, tried to put the blame on Sheriff Strada, when he knows that it is the County Facilities Department that is in charge of maintenance and repairs of the County Jail. They even brag about this on their website.
This is the same County Facilities Department that was instructed by an earlier set of Freeholders to “sell” the plan to privatize the County’s Homestead Nursing Home. And it’s the same County Facilities Department that another set of Freeholders put in charge of the Sussex Solar Program (aka… “The Scam”). Boss Graham knows this, so why did he lie?
Of course, it is all about politics. Graham can’t run again because he shit the bed so bad. He is blaming everyone but the man in the mirror and one of those he blames is Sheriff Strada. Graham would rather see the County fail than Sheriff Strada succeed.
So now Graham’s ally, County Administrator Greg Poff, is doing the old “go slow” and holding up the process of finding jobs for those corrections officers who might be displaced. Everyone else did the hard work, but Poff holds the position in the bureaucracy to finalize the process. After all, he’s the County Administrator (appointed by the last Freeholder Board controlled by Graham). Poff seems to want to delay even starting the process until the middle of next month – when there are job openings now!
Poff doesn’t even want to meet with union officials for weeks… which will be just enough time to kill the deal for some job openings. Delay a little longer… and maybe they will all go away. This would be a tragedy for the PBA corrections officers and their families and would have wasted the valuable time of so many concerned public officials. But some believe that it would also hurt Sheriff Strada, who is up for re-election this year. And that appears to be the point of the exercise.
There are people out to embarrass the Republican Party in Sussex County. In the run-up to next year’s Presidential election, they want to weaken Republicans in this Trump stronghold. Sheriff Mike Strada is a Republican who has cut his department’s budget by $2 million – and that was just last year alone. Strada has balanced the needs of law enforcement with the taxpayers’ demands that county government do more with less.
From increased property taxes… to higher debt… to the botched handling of the solar scam… and those no-bid contracts… it will take years before Sussex County emerges from the failed legacy of boss Graham. He’s not running for re-election this year. As he departs, don’t allow him to hurt the Republican Party.