Sheriff candidate interviews
SARANAC LAKE — Franklin County voters will choose their next sheriff on Tuesday, deciding between the incumbent Republican Kevin Mulverhill, and challenger Democrat Jordanna Mallach.
Mulverhill, of Malone, is running for his third four-year term as sheriff, an office he took after retiring from 23 years as a state trooper. Mallach, of Saranac Lake, is special program coordinator for the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs, a Harrietstown Town Council member and a major in the Army National Guard.
This is a preview with the candidates on four issues: staffing and budgeting for the jail, Franklin County sheriff’s office services, the opioid epidemic and school resource officers.
Both candidates said they would keep the staffing level of the jail as it stands presently, and planned to explore additional options for using the existing staff.
“I think I might look at utilizing the staff differently at times,” Mallach said in an interview at the Enterprise office. “I would explore utilizing technology for court appearances to minimize the amount of time that troopers are on the road.” In addition, she said she would review how staff scheduling is put together to make sure the facility is running as efficiently as possible.
“I would work hard to stay within the budget that is assigned by the legislators and ensure that if there’s something about the budget that needs to change, then the legislators and I, they understand why,” Mallach said.
Mulverhill, answering questions by email, said that as sheriff he is constantly looking at trends in spending to keep costs low. In the past he said money has been saved for the county through the implementation of home monitoring and changing the way the jail purchases food.
“There is also the possibility that I can staff Courthouse and Social Services buildings with retired police officers that would allow me to use those deputies elsewhere and reduce the cost for security of those buildings,” Mulverhill wrote.
Road patrol and other services
Franklin County, unlike some other counties like Essex, does not have a road patrol.
“In reality Franklin County does not have the resources to maintain an active Sheriff’s road patrol,” Mulverhill wrote. “It would be nice to be able to provide a more personal law enforcement service to those areas that have specific needs that they need to be addressed.”
He said that he’d like a road patrol to monitor localized issues, like vehicles not stopping at stop signs in specific areas.
“It’s not always possible for the State Police to give attention to those areas and if we had a road patrol things such as this could be addressed,” Mulverhill wrote.
Mulverhill said that when he first ran for sheriff in 2010, his goal was to use his deputies as a “fill in the blank” type of unit — in the jail, and as security for the courthouse and Department of Social Services buildings. In addition, they’ve been used to secure the Franklin County Fair and to direct traffic at emergency scenes, parades and drunk-driving checkpoints.
“In other words I will use the deputies whenever and where ever there is a need,” Mulverhill wrote. “It would be nice to have deputies that could be assigned to the Franklin County Drug task force but it just isn’t feasible at this time.”
“I don’t think that we need a road patrol,” Mallach said. “What would be the objective of a road patrol? To reduce crime. If we look dollar for dollar at spending taxpayer money, I think there are better ways, dollar for dollar, to reduce crime than a road patrol.”
Mallach said a major goal of hers as sheriff would be to use staff and services to build jail prevention models that “gets someone the treatment they need, as opposed to incarceration.”
Mallach said the intent of these kind of closely monitored programs is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, probation, public defenders and the district attorney to support persons through their recovery and rehabilitation.
“It costs taxpayers a lot of money to incarcerate people,” Mallach said. “If we can get people the treatment that they need, and they are able to then live in our communities, get a job, pay taxes, then that’s what we should strive for.”
Working on the Essex County Veterans Treatment Court to set up treatment courts in the past, Mallach said she has the experience to support building these kind of jail diversion models.
“I think that I would build on the coalition models that are in place, and expand them to include more stakeholders at the table,” Mallach said.
This would include bringing in pharmacists and medical professions, as well as other county agencies, Mallach said — stressing that opioids are not just a law enforcement issue.
“I think that it needs to be a collaborative effort,” Mallach said. “I think that our communities are strong and resilient and we have a lot of resources within them. But we need to do a better job of coordinating them, and filling in the gaps and leveraging them to benefit the community.”
As sheriff, Mulverhill said he’s addressed the epidemic in several ways: first by co-chairing the Franklin County Prevention Task Force, which includes educators, substance abuse and mental health counselors, law enforcement and community leaders. He said he’s made education a priority in teaching communities “not only of the perils of the opioid epidemic but in the process of prevention and recovery as well.”
At the jail, Mulverhill said he’s implemented an intake evaluation using the services of North Star Behavioral Health Services and St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers to screen inmates for substance abuse or mental health issues.
“Inmates in need are provided with services geared towards treatment, rehabilitation and recovery,” Mulverhill wrote.
School resource officers
The incoming Essex County Sheriff David Reynolds is looking to implement a program to get SROs in Essex County Public schools.
In September, Mulverhill made an agreement with Chateaugay Central School to provide two part-time deputies as special patrol officers. The school system pays the salary of the officers, and the sheriff’s office provides the staff.
“We hired 2 retired New York State Troopers that are providing security at the school for over 40 hours a week,” Mulverhill wrote. “This has been an outstanding partnership thus far and I look forward to expanding the program to other school districts that are interested.”
“I absolutely think having school resource officers are worthwhile,” Mallach said. “I think if children have a positive interaction with law enforcement in non-crisis situation — having them in the school, in classrooms, interacting with them in the lunch room or during recess — then that’s going to have an impact on how they perceive law enforcement for the rest of their life.”
Mallach said she would push for grant opportunities to help fund a prospective SRO program, like the School Violence Prevention Program grant offered by the federal government to pay for coordination with law enforcement, training, and security technology improvements to schools.