LOWVILLE — The Lewis County sheriff and legislators agreed on something: things did not go well between them at the regular Board of Legislators meeting on Tuesday evening.
After County Manager Ryan Piche gave a 14-minute presentation showing the Sheriff’s Department budget and spending over the past five years, staffing trends, causes for overtime and the current state of fund availability for the jail, road patrol and recreation patrol, four of the 17 people present not affiliated with the county spoke to the board.
All of the speakers highlighted the importance of the rec patrol, especially the patrol boat on Brantingham Lake, from where the speakers came, but the comments indicated the speakers believe the rec patrol budget was cut.
Sheriff Michael Carpinelli, however, suspended the rec patrol as well as any extra patrols for holidays and special events, in response to being told by the county budget officer, Mr. Piche, that discretionary purchases, starting with a $12,000 purchase of long guns and accessories, would be delayed until the fourth quarter to ensure there was enough money in the overall budget to cover overtime over spending in the department.
“These people are waiting for an answer. They’re waiting for me to put the recreation patrol out there. If I don’t have the funding to do it, I can not do it,” Sheriff Carpinelli said.
Tension mounted as barbs and blame were exchanged between the sheriff and legislators.
Legislators took turns pointing out that the rec patrol budget is still on track and because the majority of its budget is reimbursable, suspending the patrols only hurts the sheriff’s budget and the people of the county.
“Terrible,” Sheriff Carpinelli said on how he felt the confrontation went after leaving the meeting, “No, I’m not compromising. I’ve done that for eight years. They lie about everything.”
Some of the public who attended had a different perspective after the meeting.
“I think from what I’ve seen here the legislators have to get a more detailed breakdown of how the sheriff is spending the budget,” Bob Hindman of Brantingham said.
Legislators said they want to work with the sheriff to solve the problem, but they aren’t optimistic.
“I hope we can work through it, but I don’t see an answer,” said District 2 Legislator Randy LaChausse, “The sheriff knew which hot button to push to get the public in an uproar and that’s just wrong.”