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Joseph policing contract snags

City approves; sheriff has not signed

By Steve Tool

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on August 7, 2018 3:53PM

Joseph citizens that were worried about the lack of police protection may breathe easier soon. But not quite yet.

The Joseph City Council approved a three-year contract with the department at $113,667 per year for extra patrolling at a special meeting July 31.

Normally a rubber-stamp action, this year’s contract negotiations proved volatile behind the scenes with the council split between abolishing the service, reducing the contract or paying the standard rate. Eventually contract negotiations were relegated to attorneys for the city and county.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Steve Rogers had not signed the contract.

The latest offer included not only patrolling at up to 240 hours per month but also included stipulations of quarterly meetings between the sheriff and Joseph officials.

Council member Teresa Sajonia said that after a previous negotiation meeting, she was under the impression that between the funds the city was paying for extra patrol and some additional funds from the county, the city would get its own designated deputy.

Mayor Dennis Sands said that he understood the offer may not be just one particular deputy and that others could help fill the 240-hour patrol time. Sajonia agreed.

“I thought that was a huge selling point ... I felt it was huge for those (of the council) who voted for the contract for three years,” she said. “That was one of the reasons I voted no on the three years, because I wanted to see in that one year, was that going to get done, was that one person was going to get hired.”

Council member Mike Lockhart said he thought the agreement was clear as written and Sands agreed the contract stipulated 1.5 equivalent full-time deputies patrolling in the city limits.

Sajonia wasn’t convinced. “I’m going to put this out there: What are the consequences in three years if they don’t live up to the contract?”

Council member Marty Hamilton said he was under the impression that the city could cancel the contract after a year if it weren’t satisfied. Sajonia said that didn’t agree with her reading. Sands said he thought the quarterly meetings would address such issues.

After the contract was read, it was interpreted that the sheriff was only to provide a quarterly summary and monthly reports at the council meetings. Lockhart said he didn’t disagree with the council but said that looking at the other side of the contract, the sheriff was committing to an additional deputy for three years.

“So you don’t want to tie his hands too tight,” he said. Sajonia agreed.

Lockhart added that the council already had a long discussion with the sheriff about what duties were expected of the deputies but that they should be defined for the edification of future council members.

“I want the contract; I want it as quickly as we can get it, but if we go back to that, it can be helpful,” Lockhart said. He added he would like to know if the city would pay for the deputy’s court time and other nonpatrolling duties.

Sajonia responded she was still unhappy with the three-year contract length. She added that she’d like to see the deputy hand-deliver ordnance enforcement letters.

“I don’t see anywhere here that ordnance enforcement is addressed,” she said. Sands said it was addressed in the services section of the contract and read off the corresponding text. He also noted that response to mailed ordnance infractions was upwards of 90 percent.

Lockhart made a motion to approve a three-year contract with the stipulation that the contract would clearly define the deputy’s duties for which the city would be billed, although he later dropped that portion.


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