Retired Ohio sheriff hired to head jail

Robin Fornoff

Retired Ohio sheriff Gerry Billy was hired Tuesday as the new Curry County jail administrator among rave reviews from all five commissioners.

Commissioner Bobby Sandoval, however, questioned how a new arrangement that has Billy reporting directly to commissioners instead of County Manager Lance Pyle was going to work.

“I am very impressed with his credentials,” said newly elected Chairman Wendell Bostwick. “There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Billy knows what he is doing.”

Billy was granted a one-year contract at an annual salary of $84,000. County Attorney Stephen Doerr said the contract would automatically renew after one year unless a majority of commissioners vote not to renew. It includes step raises that put Billy’s salary at about $90,000 after two years.

The contract also specifies that Billy reports directly to the commissioners, not Pyle as all other county department chiefs.

“I’m uncomfortable,” said Sandoval. “This is the first time this commission has taken over direct supervision over anyone but Lance Pyle.”

Sandoval said he didn’t see how commissioners could supervise Billy on a day-to-day basis and make decisions without violating the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Commissioner Dan Stoddard said he was confident “this board can make this thing work.”

“This is a great step forward for Curry County,” said Stoddard.

Bostwick said he didn’t think individual communication with Billy from commissioners was prohibited by law. He said commissioners set policy “and if we have policy or procedural change … those changes will come to the (full) commission for a vote.

“I feel comfortable where we are,” said Bostwick.

Billy spent almost a quarter century as sheriff of Licking County, Ohio, and is a past president of the American Jail Association. After the meeting, he told reporters he was attracted to Curry County because he considered it a challenge and a “last act” to cap off a long career in law enforcement.

Other terms of the contract:

• Billy will provide commissioners with a staffing audit by May 1.

• The jail will assume responsibility for all movements of inmates, a responsibility now sometimes shared by the sheriff.

• Billy will submit a training audit to commissioners by Aug. 12.

• Billy will work to get the adult jail accredited by the state.