Sheriff Marté Urges Monroe County Council to Leave New Jail Planning to Law Enforcement and Corrections Professionals

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – November 30, 2023

In an email sent to members of the media, Sheriff Ruben Marté highlighted a sequence of events that underscored the need for a Transition Team Director based on insights gained from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Planning of New Institutions (PONI) training held in July 2023.

Here is the full text of the letter:

“At their meeting on November 29, 2023, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners reluctantly approved the use of ARPA funds for the salary of the Transition Team Director for the new jail construction process.  During this meeting, both Commissioner Githens and Commissioner Thomas (Commissioner Jones was not present) made public statements regarding this process and the Transition Team Director position which appear to be attached to opinion rather than facts.  Both Commissioner Githens and Commissioner Thomas expressed displeasure that the County Council had chosen to appropriate ARPA funds for this position.  Additionally, Commissioner Thomas stated she “did feel like the public should hear this is not how we were explained how the transition would work and that this was a tip of the iceberg moment and we all have to recognize this.”  In order lay a factual foundation as to why the public statements of the Commissioners are misleading, I must provide relevant information leading up to the November 29 meeting as I respond to their assertions.

In July of 2023, myself, Chief Deputy Parker, Jail Commander Gibbons, Commissioners Githens, Thomas and Jones, County Council members Iverson and Munson and others attended training for Planning of New Institutions (PONI) facilitated by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC.)  This was a comprehensive, three (3) day training session to provide decision-makers with insight and guidance as we begin the process of building a new correctional facility.  This training included and entire block dedicated solely to the “transition” from the current facility to the new one.  From that training, it became inherently obvious that we needed to quickly begin the processes delineated by the NIC instructors, namely retaining a Transition Team Director.

Directly resultant from the PONI training, we began the planning process for the implementation of a Transition Team and Transition Team Director.  The early stages of this planning began with a Personnel Administration Committee (PAC) meeting on October 3, 2023, which included discussion regarding the Transition Team and Director.  From that meeting, the following determinations were made:

  • The Transition Team and Director should be under Office of the Sheriff.
  • The implementation of the Transition Team Director position was the key to getting started.
  • PAC agreed the Director should be a contract position.
  • Chief Deputy Parker and the County Legal Office were to meet and begin the process of drafting the contract, including the scope of work.
  • PAC agreed this was not a PAC issue, rather than a matter for the County Council to deliberate regarding funding source(s).

Shortly after the PAC meeting, Chief Deputy Parker and members of the Legal Office began the work to draft the Transition Team Director contract.  It was during this time, the concept of ARPA funding for this position was proposed by the Legal Office.

October 17, 2023, my staff and I met with Commissioner Githens, Scott Carnegie of DLZ and member of the Legal Office.  In this meeting, various aspects of the Transition Team and the Director were discussed.

On October 24, 2024, my staff and I meet with the County Council in their regularly scheduled public meeting.  In this meeting, there was lengthy discussion regarding the Transition Team Director position to include:

  • The placement of the Transition Team Director is an imminent need.
  • We specifically agreed this was going to be a full-time contract position.
  • We agreed the contract would be with the Sheriff and overseen by the Sheriff.
  • Salary, term and performance points of the contract.
  • Use of APRA funds as a salary funding source.
  • Office location and equipment needs.
  • Counciler Hawk specifically pointed out the urgency of Director’s position to be filled so the Sheriff and his staff could fulfill the duties of their respective positions.

It is important to note that Commissioner Githens was present at this meeting and privy to the entire conversation regarding the Transition Team Director as a full-time, contract position and the proposal to use ARPA monies to fund it.  At no time did she make any public statement that she opposed or had differing opinions on any of these three (3) points of discussion.

On November 14, 2023, a short notice meeting was requested by Commissioner Githens via TEAMS.  Present at this meeting was:

  • Myself
  • Chief Deputy Parker
  • Jail Commander Gibbons
  • Council President Wiltz
  • Commissioner President Githens
  • Counciler Munson
  • Counciler Crossley
  • Molly Turner-King
  • Mark Martin (NIC)

In this meeting, Mr. Martin stated we are in the “Needs Assessment” phase and the Team Director should be appointed quickly and the process will rapidly evolve causing the Transition Director position to be full-time.  He presented a Facility Development Process chart which he discussed and referenced during the meeting.

In conflict with Mr. Martin’s expertise, Commissioner Githens expressed she did not feel the Director’s position was a full-time position at this point and should come from a current member of the jail staff.  After all the numerous discussions we had engaged in regarding this topic, this was the first time Commissioner Githens had expressed any concern regarding these issues.  I asserted to Commissioner Githens that, as Sheriff, I know my staff and while we have a dedicated and professional staff, the Transition Team Director position requires program manager skills more than operational knowledge. That person does not currently exist on my staff.  The operational knowledge will come from the team members. Commissioner Githens does not possess the experience, expertise or knowledge of my staff to be imposing her viewpoints on how the Transition Team is comprised and operates.  I have repeatedly affirmed that my staff could serve in the short-term role of facilitating this process to the point of bringing on the Transition Team Director; however, we must depart this role to fulfill our statutory obligation to ensure the safety and security of the jail.

On November 14, 2023, The Chief Deputy Parker and I spoke with Scott Carnegie of DLZ.  He made the following observations;

  • The Transition Team Director is a full-time position.
  • The Transition Team Director position is needed now or in the very near future.
  • The Transition/Design team is normally comprised of, in its entirety, of jail employees.
  • The best-case scenario is for Transition Team and Design Team to be made up of the same personnel.  To do otherwise inevitably leads to “chaos.”
  • When specialty information is needed, i.e.: medical, mental health, etc., those experts may be called by the team for input and guidance.

Also on November 14, 2023, Chief Deputy Parker and I presented a briefing to the County Council at their regularly scheduled public meeting.  During this meeting, we briefed the Council on the new and unexpected issues Commissioner Githens has presented earlier that day.  Chief Deputy Parker presented the Council with a document entitled “Monroe County Sheriff’s Office – New Jail Build Transition Team.”  He also provided them with the Facility Development Process chart Mr. Martin had referenced earlier that day.  The entire discussion centered around the fact that the consulting professionals were not in agreement with Commissioner Githens in her stance that the Transition Team Director position was not a full-time position and that it should be selected from current jail staff.  During his presentation, Chief Deputy Parker unequivocally stated, “absent Commander Gibbons and Assistant Commander Demmings, that person simply does not exist on the current staff” and that we cannot sacrifice the safety and security of the current facility for the Transition Team Director position.  He also reviewed the information provided by Mark Martin and Scott Carnegie regarding these two particular issues.  APRA funding was again discussed as a funding source.  Moreover, Commissioner Githens was present at this meeting during these discussions.  Commissioner Githens made no public comment regarding any objection to ARPA funding.

On November 27, 2023, Monroe County Council and Commissioners met in a public joint session.  During this session, Counciler Crossley inquired of the of the Commissioners that she wanted to hear what some of the major concerns were that some of the Commissioners had for the use of the funds.  In her comments, Commissioner Thomas stated she was “floored” at the discussion.  Having sat through PONI training and discussions with DLZ, she felt the structure was not correct.  What she heard through PONI and from DLZ is someone from within the system becomes the Transition Director, not someone from outside and that transition is only part-time at first.  As follow up, Commissioner Githens stated she was completely unaware of why an outside person would be used when she has not seen that done elsewhere. Additionally, both Commissioners expressed dissatisfaction as to the use of ARPA funds regarding this position.  To my knowledge, this is the first time either Commissioner had publicly opposed use of ARPA funds.  Certainly, neither of them had ever mentioned their opposition to me.

Below are excerpts I have copied directly from the PONI training manual about the position itself and the time required to perform it.

There are thousands of tasks that occur during transition.  Transition is complex, occurs over the duration of the planning and construction process and at times, will require more than 40 hours a week.  Most jurisdictions use a team of individuals led by a transition team coordinator.  This is not a job that a jail administrator can perform as an added task – unless there is an interim administrator.

While thinking about planning for transition, here are some key points to remember:

  • Transition planning starts early.
  • Transition requires a team.
  • Transition requires extra staff.
  • Transition is a full-time job, not part-time.
  • Transition means training – new and veteran staff, facility users.
  • Transition can mean seeking consultant help.
  • Transition is long-term.
  • Transition requires funding.
  • Transition is essential for moving into the new facility.
  • Safely
  • Effectively
  • Efficiently

The manual does not designate “where” the Director comes from.  If the Commissioners would simply listen, Chief Deputy Parker had already publicly stated in the Council meeting on November 14, 2023, “absent Commander Gibbons and Assistant Commander Demmings, that person simply does not exist on the current staff.”  Just to be clear, We WILL NOT return to what was displayed in our public presentation regarding the condition of the jail on February 7, 2023.

On November 28, 2023, Chief Deputy Parker spoke to Scott Carnegie of DLZ and Mark Martin of the National Institute of Corrections again.  Here is what they said:

  • Mr. Carnegie reaffirmed the Transition Director position would rapidly evolve into a full-time position.  As we stated before, I plan to provide agency, jail operations and policy familiarization to the Transition Team Director which should already be in progress.
  • Mr. Carnegie stated while it would certainly be desirable for the Transition Team Director to be selected from current jail staff, it is perfectly acceptable to select from outside the agency.
  • Mr. Carnegie stated the Transition Team Director should not be a unilateral decision maker for issue related to the new jail design, build and transition.  This position should regularly confer with the Sheriff and his staff for guidance and direction.  I have always held this to be our logic and intent for this position.
  • Mr. Martin also expressed the Transition Director position would rapidly evolve into a full-time position.  He stated the position would typically and ideally be selected from current staff; however, the needs of the agency may certainly justify an outside selection.

On November 28, 2023, the Monroe County Council met to consider the appropriation of ARPA funds for the Transition Team Director position.  The Council carefully considered the information from legal and operational perspectives and unanimously voted to appropriate ARPA funds.  I think it very noteworthy that two (2) of the Council members participating in the unanimous vote attended the same PONI training session as did myself, my staff and the Commissioners.

The following, among several others, attended PONI training:

  • Counciler Iverson
  • Counciler Munson
  • Commissioner Githens
  • Commissioner Thomas
  • Commissioner Jones
  • Myself
  • Chief Deputy Parker
  • Jail Commander Gibbons

Of these eight (8) attendees, only Commissioner Githens and Commissioner Thomas have come away from PONI with the belief that the Transition Team Director Position is part-time and must be filled by current jail staff.  Not only that, but this was only made known as an issue on November 14, 2023.

The Commissioners are not entitled to their own set of facts.  The PONI manual and subject matter experts clearly state exactly the opposite of what Commissioners Githens and Commissioner Thomas assert regarding the Transition Team Director position.

I find it more than ironic that all three Commissioners have engaged taxpayer dollars to visit correctional facilities in Arizona and twice to Franklin County, Ohio.  However, throughout the first year of my administration and during our efforts to improve the safety, sanitation and conditions of the jail, only Commissioner Githens participated in one brief tour of the facility.  Other than this short tour, the Commissioners have not walked the one city block required to step foot into the very facility they are statutorily charged to maintain…the Monroe County Jail.  When the conditions of the facility were revealed in February of this year, the Commissioners were quick to explain they were unaware of the state of the facility.  The Commissioners are the “landlords” of our jail.  In every segment of society, landlords do not get to evade their responsibilities to their tenants by claiming to be unaware.  Conversely, they are required to maintain vigilant observation so that the conditions of their properties are safe and secure for those they house.  I do not dispute the Commissioners did not fully understand how terribly the conditions of the jail had deteriorated; however, based on my experience, they have not shown the interest to personally observe the conditions of the jail.  To fully demonstrate the lack of interest to which I speak, during the major gas leak that occurred at our facility on September 20, 2023, I attempted to contact Commissioner Githens three (3) times during this emergency to collaborate with her on contingency actions.  One would suppose if the Sheriff attempted three (3) separate contacts with the President of the Commissioners after normal business hours, that act would arouse some awareness of an immediate need for communication.  Each of my calls went unanswered by Commissioner Githens nor did she ever return my calls to ascertain if there was a need.  Collaboration must exist for county government to operate in the best interest of its citizens.

In closing, I will convey this.  I am grateful to the County Council and the Commissioners for seeing this process through to a logical outcome.  I would hope that going forward, the Commissioners, who have not one single minute of law enforcement or corrections experience, will genuinely understand this about themselves and work collaboratively with me and my staff, who have over 100 years of combined experience in law enforcement and corrections.  I further hope they refrain from attempting to impose their uninformed and inexperienced ideology upon this process in direct contradiction of the recommendations and planning expertise of the subject matter experts assembled to see this process through.

Ruben Marte’, Sheriff

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office”

Rate this post

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4 / 5. Vote count: 10

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Bloomingtonian on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!