Sheriff Candidates Discuss Jail Crowding, Marine Patrol Issues During Hamburg Forum
Incumbent Bob Bezotte will run against opponents C.J. Maier and Tom Ash for Livingston County sheriff.
Each of the three candidates vying for the position of Livingston County sheriff shared what they felt was the most important issue facing the job during the a candidate forum in Hamburg on Monday night.
For incumbent sheriff Bob Bezotte, it was the overcrowding of the jails.
“Right now our jail is our huge problem,” Bezotte said. “We’ve got 17 maximum security beds, and we’re constantly seeing 35-40 maximum security prisoners.”
Bezotte said the jail was built for medium- and minimum-security prisoners, but house maximum-security prisoners like the five inmates who are being held for homicide. Bezotte also addressed the issue of the female jail population, which has “exploded” within the last 10 years, according to the sheriff.
Former sheriff's deputy Tom Ash said he considers the biggest issue to be the lack of manpower on the road patrol. Ash also addressed the common practice of allowing sheriff deputies to use their vehicles and department gas cards for vacations or personal use.
Bezotte called the statement an “unfair criticism”, explaining that the personal use of department vehicles, vacations excluded, is a contractual issue and part of union negotiations that are out of his control.
For retired Michigan State Police Lt. C.J. Maier, the biggest issue is the low morale within the sheriff's department.
“Morale is at the all-time lowest,” Maier said.
Other questions that the candidates addressed from audience members on Monday night included the issue of a marine patrol.
Calling it “enormously important”, considering all the lakes in the area, Maier said that under his leadership, the county would never go without a marine patrol.
“There is a grant money up there, it’s free for the taking, all you have to do is fill out the paperwork,” Maier said. “It wasn’t submitted this year – that will never happen under me. We will always have marine patrol.”
Ash agreed with Maier. “The only reason why we don’t have it is because the present administration failed to submit the paperwork for it,” he said.
Ash also explained that the lack of a marine patrol was the third most common question he hears from voters. Calling it a void, Ash said he would bring the patrol back under his leadership as well.
Bezotte, however, said his opponents were uninformed about the issue and that paperwork for the grant was submitted, but due to staffing issues of the past, the department chose not to accept the money.
“Our deputies work marine patrol over and above their 40-hour work week, so it’s on overtime,” Bezotte said. “Towards the end of the summer, we couldn’t even get them to even take the job and go on the water.
“I chose to keep one deputy on the road instead of on the water,” he said. “I hope to bring the marine patrol back this time next year.”