Commission taking wait-and-see approach on jailbreak

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Curry County residents may be talking about the Aug. 24 escape from the Clovis jail, but the issue is not dominating discussions during County Commission meetings.

The issue may not even come up at today’s 9 a.m. meeting, unless a department head chooses to address it.

And that’s as it should be, according to Commissioner Tim Ashley. He said the issue is still, appropriately, in the hands of county administrators.

“I think you have to let administration do their due diligence on how they’re going to address issues. … You have to work through the chain of command and the commission is not directly over the jail. That’s what you have a manager for and that’s his job,” Ashley said Tuesday.

“You can certainly get yourself in a lot more trouble with a knee-jerk reaction.”

More than a dozen items are on the agenda for discussion this morning — from road fund resolutions to agreements with various entities — but the jail break is not among scheduled topics.

And it is crucial to let investigations, both criminal and administrative, take their due course, Commissioner Robert Sandoval said.

“I know that (County Manager Lance Pyle) is taking it very, very seriously and we’re going to (deal with) it but we want to do it right,” Sandoval said. “If we have to chastise a few employees, if we have to fire a few employees, we’re going to do what we have to do,” he said.

But Sandoval, who also serves on the commission’s jail committee, said the process has to be complete and time is needed for thoroughness.

“(The consultants and investigators) are going to tell us what their opinion is as to what needs to be done and then we’re going to do what needs to be done,” Sandoval said.

“As a common citizen, I want answers but I also want to make sure that what we do, we do it right.”

Pyle said he is expecting reports from consultants this week; after that he can draft an action plan, which will be presented to the commission.

The criminal investigation into what happened at the jail remains ongoing, he said.

Officials have said the inmates, all accused of violent crimes, cut a hole in the roof of the jail and shimmied up plumbing pipes to freedom.

Four of the eight who escaped, including a convicted murderer and a murder suspect, remained at large late Tuesday.

Rewards are being offered by Curry County Crime Stoppers for information about the four inmates who remain at large from the Curry County Detention Center.
• Edward Salas — up to $3,000
• Larry McClendon Jr. — up to $2,000
• Michael England — up to $1,500
• Louis Chavez — up to $1,000
Crime Stoppers can be contacted at 763-7000. Callers can remain anonymous: