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Cuyahoga County Councilman Questions Need For Chief Public Safety Officer

The chain of command under a new public safety director is unclear since former director Brandy Carney was named Chief of Special Operations to distribute opioid settlement money, at least according to the Cuyahoga County Council's Safety and Justice Committee.

Carney said it's her understanding that the sheriff, clerk of courts and medical examiner would report to the new safety director.

But the committee’s chairman, Michael Gallagher, says the panel needs input from Bill Mason, chief of staff for County Executive Armond Budish.

“In the last go-around with the charter change, [the election] gave autonomy of the sheriff's office to the sheriff and this goes just the opposite of what that says, and what that says is the law in this county,” Gallagher said at a Tuesday committee meeting.

Gallagher has already questioned if the public safety position should exist at all. It was created in 2015, when Frank Bova was promoted into the job from sheriff.

“Who reports to who with respect to the new position created?” Councilman Scott Tuma asked after the meeting. “And again, I don't think that the sheriff has to report to this new director in any way, shape or form.”

Carney and Mason are currently splitting the duties normally handled by the public safety director, Carney told the committee.

The $23 million currently in the county's control from opioid settlement dollars, which is Carney’s new responsibility, has not yet been put on any council agenda.

The committee also learned on Tuesday that Euclid has not yet closed its Cuyahoga County satellite jail and needs an extension through January while the search for another facility to house its own inmates continues. The county loses money housing inmates for municipalities that have closed their own jails, according to Gallagher, who said the moving target on costs makes construction of a new county jail a priority, as returning inmates to cities that no longer have a jail is not an option.

“We have to get this jail built as soon as possible and that's why we're going to have to eat these [costs] for three years until that jail is built,” Gallagher said. The committee on the new justice center is making progress, he said, but not as quickly as he would like.

Keeping county inmates at the satellite jail in Euclid costs the county an estimated $120 per inmate, per day, said Donna Kaleal, the county fiscal officer from the sheriff’s department.

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