In an almost full McHenry County Conference Center, Sheriff hopefuls Andy Zinke and Bill Prim faced off Tuesday night at a League of Women Voters forum.
Drawing the first opening statement, in a calm cadence, former Des Plaines Police Commander Prim outlined pledged to be fiscally prudent to ensure that our children and our children’s children can afford to live in McHenry County.force
He also forcefully stated five “won’ts” of a Prim Administration:
- “I won’t tip off a business owner who is a large campaign donor when there is an illegal shipment of narcotics coming into their business.
- “I won’t create a division between other elected officials by publicly berating them in the press.
- “I won’t have the person that’s responsible for conducting internal investigations out passing my nominating petitions.
- “I won’t create a roadblock for the dissemination of information that’s requested through the Freedom of Information.
- “I won’t squander the taxpayer’s dollars or the courts time or employee time from the states attorneys’ office and the sheriff’s office trying to defend those positions as well.”
He dismissed Prim’s charges, saying, “Then, there’s the truth. I’ll ignore most of the bogus information you’ve heard earlier.”
Next came a series of questions, screened by members of the League.
The question with the most substance to it concerned the contract for the Sheriff’s Office to house prisoners and detainees placed there by the Federal government.
(McHenry County Blog has analyzed the figures presented by $60,000 consultant Joseph Summerill. From the figures presented last April, it appears that the County subsidized the Federal government $5-$6 million a year over the five year period 2008-2012. See Part 1 and Part 2.)
“Do you favor extending the present contract with immigration beyond its current length, taking into account that expenses exceed reimbursements?
“If you do not, how would you handle the lose of jobs and the use of that space?”
Zinke was up first (candidates alternated with the one answered first, with the first responder getting thirty seconds more, if requested).
The McHenry County Jail control center on the ICE floor.
“First, do I favor the extension of the contract with ICE?
“Absolutely, if it’s cost effective, but that’s not up to me.
“That’s not up to the Sheriff.
“That’s up to the County Board.
“They are the ones who entered into that agreement in 2005…”
“It’s not a money-making system. It’s a cash flow system that comes in that comes in.
“You don’t make money off the Federal government,” he admitted.
Zinke noted that the Feds paid $6.5 million to build out the third floor.
He noted that the County has not grown much recently.
“We see a way of continuing to bring cash flow into the county.
“We are actively pursuing an increase in the fee.”
He noted that he did not want to see jobs lost and favored attrition, if layoffs became necessary.
Prim was next up.
“I believe you are responsible for your budget. You’re responsible for your premises. So you have to be responsible for making that decision or at least making a recommendation.
“It hasn’t been cost effective to house the ICE detainees,” he said, “and that’s unfortunate…
“But regardless of which numbers you use, everybody knows we’re losing money–to the tune of at least $3 million [annually] if you use the consultant’s numbers.”
Prim pointed out the County is now charging “$15 a day more than our nearest competitors.”
“So the expenses do exceed the costs. We do have some unused space, some unfinished space, and maybe we have the ability to go out and contract with some other counties and bring some additional prisoners in and increase that revenue.”
He suggested there may be other agencies needing jail space which “maybe we have the ability to go out and contract [with].”
With regard to the possibility of losing jobs, he agreed with Zinke that it should be through attrition.
Prim did say that some of the supervisory spots could be eliminated through attrition as well.
In his rebuttal, Zinke said, “Not saying that this program hasn’t been a win for McHenry County and a cost-effective program is an absolute lie.
“The consultant reports you refer to is a advertisement that was made by a consultant in
Washington, D.C., in order to get the County to hire him to do negotiations for the County.
“I’ve seen the report. I’ve seen the information you have. It’s erroneous. It’s inaccurate. You don’t know what you are talking about and you’re being fed that information by people that don’t understand the process whatsoever.”