Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sheriff Anderson Chooses Re-Election Over $50,000 Pay Raise

Sheriff Frank Anderson (D) has decided that getting re-elected to another 4-year term as Marion Co. sheriff is more important than his $50,000 pay raise. The Star reports that he has decided to forego the $50,000 pay raise he negotiated with the county's Administrative Board late last year. "I will forego the $50,000.00 salary increase," Anderson said, "and I propose that it be dedicated to our public safety needs."

Anderson had little choice after a public firestorm erupted on Monday when the Star revealed the content of his new contract for the first time, and his Republican opponent announced he would push for a $115,000 cap on the sheriff's salary. Let's hope this issue doesn't fade away so that lawmakers feel compelled to repeal the law that allows sheriffs in Indiana to substantially enhance their salaries by pocketing a percentage of delinquent tax collections.


Kevin said...

There was a letter in Today's Star that I think made a good point. The outrageous salary structure for Marion Co. sheriff has been going on for years but there was no outrage until recently.

Is it coincidence that the sheriff was always republican until recently?

RiShawn Biddle said...

Does it really matter when the issue came to light? Really? Give some thought to your logic. A bad system remains that way no matter which party or politician benefits from it. To argue otherwise is rather simple-minded tripe from thoughtless partisans.

The fact that it came to light while a Democrat is holding the sheriff's post doesn't (and shouldn't) cast suspicion on criticism of the arrangement.

Eliminating township government in Marion County has been an idea bandied about by folks across the political spectrum. The fact that it took a Democratic mayor, Bart Peterson, to push for the end of townships in Marion County doesn't make its elimination a bad idea.

Kevin said...

Rishawn, read my last question again. Its just that - a question. I agree its a bad system and needs to be changed now. Its just odd to me that it wasn't under such scrutiny until recently. But I guess I'm a "simple minded thoughtless partisan"


Anonymous said...

Oh, Rishawn; you miss the point. It's not that the criticism is misplaced; it's that the criticism should have been leveled years ago. It's not as if this is a new system.

Perhaps articles did run on this issue in the past; I just don't remember banner headlines about the issue in the Star 4 or 8 or 12 years ago (just picking election years, like this one), when the sheriff was a Republican. If there were, then those facts will easily counter the skepticism shown here.

I also wonder if your paper's new is looking at how much money the Hamilton County sheriff makes (the same for the rest of the donut counties) -- it would be instructive to know if they follow the same process as Marion County or not. I suspect the dollars might be significantly higher here, given the amounts of collections at issue here; but it would be interesting to know if the other sheriffs are getting a smaller, larger, or equal cut of the tax collections in those counties -- all of whom have Republican sheriffs.

The fact that your paper's stories didn't look at the broader region and include any information about the sheriffs in any of the surrounding counties could cause some to question the paper's political motives. Don't get me wrong -- I realize that you can perform good deeds with bad motives. Please don't tell me that you didn't cover the other counties because the Star is an Indianapolis paper (see, above). But it's a fair inquiry to ask why the coverage was limited to one sheriff; and by the way, dismissing questions about a news organization's objectivity by calling them "simple-minded, thoughtless tripe" certainly elevates the dialogue. To be trite myself, way to go all Edward R. Murrow on that guy's crazy post!

By the way, I hope your reporters are doing follow up work on how much money the township constables make from serving subpoenas, etc. out of the township small claims courts. I've been told that "thar's gold in them there townships" as well.

RiShawn Biddle said...

And the point I'm making Kevin is that at the end, none of that matters. Whether or not someone should have been making light of this back in the 1990s shouldn't be the point for those of us who want good, effective government. It's been brought to attention now and it deserves discussion.

Since Kevin brought up the question of whether stories or editorials were done on this, one can actually go to the Star archives and find a 1995 editorial criticizing the tax collecting arrangement, along with that for township constables. The sheriff's arrangement, said the Editorial Board at the time, "is an insult to police who put their lives on the line each time they leave roll call and head for the streets." News stories covering the sheriff's race in 2002 also made light of the sums then-Sheriff Jack Cottey received above his $95,000-a-year salary.

So to argue that the Star ignored the matter during the period the job was held by a Republican means you're arguing with reality.

I would answer anonymous except that those who aren't willing to at least place a nom de plume before their comments hardly deserve attention.

LPerdue said...

I'm glad Rishawn brought up the township taxing arrangements that heavily benefit the township constable. I think there absolutely should be a cap on how much or what % a sheriff and a constable can make. I like Sheriff Anderson and would vote for him no matter what he ran for. But this amount seems obscenely over the top, particularly at a time when the city and county could use some of that money.

I moved here from a small rural county in the northern part of the state. The same tax arrangement was used there to shore up the pitiful salary of the sheriff. I would hate to see a drastic bill impact those smaller counties that don't have much of a police department and rely heavily on their sheriffs who in turn rely on this arrangement to make a living.

Advance Indiana said...

A point I would make on the constables is that their pay, as I understand it, is paid entirely by litigants. Fees charged for service of process are paid to the constable, who either handle all of the cases themselves or hire someone to assist them with the work. They generally do a pretty good job of tracking people down to perfect service--which attorneys like. If the townships kept the fees and got rid of the constables, they're going to have to hire someone to do the same work, pay benefits, etc. I'm not sure there would be any cost savings realized. Someone correct me if I misunderstand how this system works. So a constable might earn $150,000 in fees, but he's paying all of his taxes, including payroll taxes, out of that amount as well as paying for any employees he has.