Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Sheriff Should be Appointed

The Indiana Commission on Local Government and Reform has recommended (#3) that the sheriff, along with other positions, change from elected to appointed positions. There was no doubt that sheriffs were going to be opposed to this recommendation and Niki Kelly of the JG quotes our own Sheriff Ken Fries' opposition:
Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries called the idea of eliminating county sheriffs “utterly ridiculous.”

That would be ridiculous if anyone were actually proposing to do such a thing. On the contrary, the commission merely recommended that they become an appointed position and for good reason as party affiliation does not make you qualified to be sheriff. On top of that, the sheriff, as an administrator, should carry out the policies of the executive branch much in the same way as the Chief of Police, the FBI director, the Department of Homeland Security, etc. Fries continues his argument:
Fries said such a move would take away the power of voters to decide who should fill the office and that placing such power in the hands of a few county officials would increase the threat of corruption.

“It’s much more effective and efficient to have (the sheriff) elected as opposed to appointed,” Fries said.

Again, I respectfully disagree. In fact I don't believe it's even debatable that it's more effective for an executive to pick their administrators than to have them elected. The executive has certain policies in mind and are in the best position to hire the most qualified candidate to carry out those policies. Does the average voter even understand what a county sheriff does, let alone which candidate is more qualified?

Don't get me wrong, I think Sheriff Fries is doing a fine job and would make an excellent choice for sheriff even if the position were to become appointed - which I hope is ultimately what happens...


Jon Olinger said...

This is not a simple change. The Sheriff is a position created by the constitution of Indiana and technically is the only other law enforcement officer in the county other than the coroner that has arrest power. (The coroner can only arrest the Sheriff and is the only person who can arrest the Sheriff). Party affiliation does not qualify anyone for the job of Sheriff, but do you really think party affiliation will not be in the equation if he is appointed. The folks making the appointment are not going to appoint political enemies. You can not argue that John Crawford was accountable to the voter. The libertarians did not defeat John Crawford, his inability to respect the opinion of his constituents removed him from office just as John Shoaff's ability to listen to and respect the same constituency kept him in office. It is easier to remove a corrupt elected official, than a corrupt appointed one.

As for consolidation of schools, it would certainly improve the efficiency of the school in terms of economics of scale, but there is no evidence it would improve the quality of education. In fact most evidence shows an opposite effect especially with Urban Districts.

Jeff Pruitt said...


Crawford was in a legislative position and thus should certainly have to be elected. Party affiliation would come into the equation but the best political candidate doesn't necessarily equate to the best Sheriff and that was really my point.

As for school consolidation and quality of education, I tend to agree with you. But how do you answer the criticism that 75% of graduates don't meet the Core 40 Honors requirements that will be necessary for admission into our top state universities?

Also, what about the criticism that we have more non-instructional personnel than the national average but less instructional personnel than the national average?

That seems to be a call for consolidation in and of itself but I would like to hear your thoughts if you're so inclined...

Kevin said...

Following Jon's theory- should we elect a police chief?

Vic DeMize said...

Why should party affiliation even be a consideration when voting for a position like Sheriff, unless you're one of those sheeple who refuse to vote for anyone that isn't in your party of choice? If there are ten people running as independents it improves my odds of finding someone I feel is qualified to do the job and politics be damned.

I have to agree with Jon - it's easier to oust a corrupt Sheriff who's been elected than one who's been appointed by his cronies.

dan jehl said...

This is interesting and the beginning of what will be a long road of spirited public dialgue on changes in local overnment. It seems we are not off to a good start given the Sheriff remarks.

When one doesn't want to appear self defensive and lacks solid information in blog-media-press debate, one confuses the public. Where does it say that the essential position of County Sheriff would be "eliminated?"

It will be be difficult to debate this with accurate info. Let's not make it more difficult.

The change cited works for the Chief of Police in the City of Fort Wayne. That's one litmus test.

How about viewing this one change-not in isolation-but in relation to the to another proposed change in the proposal-namely, the county appointing authority. It would no longer be three people or 3 Commissioners. I believe it would be the Allen County Executive. That means it's not reliable to compare with the status quo without considering how this would impact on the Sheriff appointment and un-appointment if need be.

And isn't it the case that there were two candidates for the position of Sheriff--one a Republican and one a Democrat? How is that not a party factor?

Hopefully, the public interest will be served by whatever changes ultimately prevail. Many changes in the initial volley are yet to come.

Let's hope this is just off to a not-good start. The public dialogue is not served well if it is based on critical remarks by incumbent officials defending the status quo focusing on isolated changes rather than a basis termed the high road of dialogue on the bigger picture.

We the taxpayer can no longer defend what is perceived (often accurately) as inefficiencies, duplicative services, and unnecessary multi-layers of local government and public services, fueled by each local level of government showing up on the propery tax bill.

Yes, this will be interesting. How about viewing the entire package?

Rachel said...

I'm disappointed that some elected officials are already crying fowl over the perceived loss of power, instead of being able to put the public good ahead of personal and political interests. A far more media-savvy response would have been to say something along the lines of we need to give this report some consideration or evaluate what's in the best interest of the public, etc.

And nowhere have I seen in the report itself, in the blogosphere or the mainstream media, any accusation that our many local elected officials are unqualified.

As the reports points out, Indiana's governmental structure, especially at the township and county levels, was designed for days when getting to the county seat involved literal horsepower. Welcome to the Internet age, folks!

Jon Olinger said...

Kevin.. No the police chief should not be elected. The difference lies in the fact that the Sheriff is established by the constitution of the State and the position of Police Chief is established by the legislative authority of the city council. Changing some offices such as recorder and township positions are relatively easy, constitutional amendments are not and usually have unintended consequences.

Currently there are three elected executives (commissioners), an elected coroner and an elected Sheriff. All elected in party affiliated elections. The proposal eliminates two of the three elected Commissioners and appoints the coroner and the Sheriff. This goes from a system of five, very powerful, elected positions that answer directly to the voter, to one elected official and two very powerful appointed positions. The voter looses input in a lot of power. Are we ready to trade five elected tyrants for one elected tyrant and two appointed ones?


" do you answer the criticism that 75% of graduates don't meet the Core 40 Honors ..."

That’s actually an easy answer.. It’s not true. The state DOE shows that out of 100% of the graduating students about 33% Graduate with a Core 40 Diploma. What is not easily seen and many times not reported is that an additional 30-35% of the students receive an Academic Honors diploma or equivalent which exceeds Core 40. In truth about 66% of our graduating seniors graduate with Core 40 or higher. FWCS's special Ed population is 21% and many are exempt from the Core 40 requirements, thus only about 10-15% of the graduating seniors do not achieve core 40.

As for the imbalance between non-instructional and instructional personnel I believe it is always a problem. Many administrations like to add administrators and the standardized testing efforts of NCLB have provided administrators with an excuse to enlarge the bureaucracy. Bottom line the more money we can poor directly into the classroom the more successful our students will be.

P.S. Call me lets have lunch.


Andrew Kaduk said...

As much as I can clearly see the case for the dismay over this idea (the concept that giving elected officials yet MORE power over that of the voting public is a horrible, horrible idea), I must also recognize the flipside of the coin:

The voting public has an extremely poor record of carefully scrutinizing the resumes of political candidates.

Overall, I think that the Sheriff is simply a figurehead and a manager of personnel...wielding absolutely NO legislative responsibility or power. This leads me to think that the public electing the sheriff's boss is probably sufficient since the days of Nottingham and Hazzard are probably, in fact, things of the past. That being said, anything that can break the bonds of partisan hackery is sweet by me.

Jeff Pruitt said...


Your statistics are correct as the state DOE reports that 67% of graduates meet the core 40 requirement. However, the report was specifically referring to the core 40 Honors requirements an the DOE reports only 30% meet that requirement.

The report seems to indicate that Purdue and IU will require the Core 40 Honors diploma, but I've searched the IU and Purdue admission pages and neither one of them confirms that. In fact IU's specifically says the Core 40 is sufficient starting in 2011 so I'm not sure where the Commission got their data. I'm inclined to think that even if universities were to require the Honors dimploma we would soon see a rapid rise in the number of students earning that diploma.

Furthermore the report seems to imply that students don't meet the Honors requirements because these smaller school districts aren't offering the appropriate courses. However, state law requires them to do so:
IC 20-30-10-4
Curriculum models; course offerings
Sec. 4. Each high school must provide at least two (2) of each of the following course offerings to high school students who qualify to enroll in the courses:
(1) Dual credit.
(2) Advanced placement.

I think the commission should stick with the "too many administrators" argument...

Robert Enders said...

Isn't accepting campaign contributions an invitation to corruption? What if a body turns up in the basement of a campaign donor? Even if the donor is completely innocent, people will still assume all the wrong things about the sheriff. This sort of thing isn't going on here, but overt corruption has happened in Indiana before.

Jon Olinger said...

I don't know what the report is referring to when it states Core 40 Honors. There are basically three diploma's offered, a regular diploma, Core 40 or Academic Honors. Core 40 was set up as the "college track" diploma and is curriculum based. The guidelines were set up with the guidance of our State Colleges and Core 40 will be what is required for admittance. Academic Honors curricula are similar in the areas of study, but taught at a college level. FWCS offers both dual credit classes and AP. The dual credit classes are limited for any district as a local University must participate.

Yes accepting campaign contributions is an invitation to corruption, but appointing the Sheriff does not remove him from that perception. If the Sheriff is appointed by an elected official then he is beholden only to that official with no accountability to the voter. If he is elected he has likely accepted campaign contributions from hundreds of people and is ultimately responsible to those that vote for the office. Just because the Voter has a terrible track record of looking at the resume of the candidate doesn’t mean that right to choose should be removed. I would argue that in the past elections for Sheriff in Allen County the voters selected quality individuals that have performed their jobs well.

Jeff Pruitt said...


Based on the context and the statistics provided I'm sure the report was talking about the Academic Honors diploma. The DOE website calls it "Core 40 with Academic Honors" so I'm not sure why the commission added the confusion by labeling it Core 40 Honors...

J Q Taxpayer said...


I think if you search the local records you will find about a police chief that may have covered up or provided the tips to protect a brother to a former mayor. The brother may have killed a cleaning lady on East State Blvd.

I prefer to vote for the top cop. He knows regardless of pressure he can be fired only by the people. He is not subject to the pressure of others.