Oregon County Republicans hear from sheriff candidate
Sixteen people attended the Oregon County Republican Committee pre-caucus meeting Tuesday, March 12, in the courthouse basement in Alton, including several non-committee members.
Led by committee chair Laird Kelly of Thayer, the committee met to plan for its March 17 caucus to appoint delegates to travel to upcoming Republican conventions.
Onlookers included rural Alton dairy farmers Gary and Leza Smith, Thayer cattle ranchers Mike and Deb Slack, B.J. Jordan, and former Alton Police chief Kevin Jotz, a Republican candidate for Oregon County sheriff.
"I decided it's time to get involved," Whitelock said of his resolution to attend the three-hour meeting.
Before the committee began discussing caucus responsibilities, Kelly asked Jotz to speak about his candidacy. It was the first time many in the room had met Jotz, who will face former Thayer Police Department assistant chief Michael Bunting in the August primary election.
Bunting, who was not at the meeting, was fired from his position in October 2011. He filed a lawsuit against the city of Thayer, seeking lost wages and reinstatement to his position.
The Republican primary winner will square off in November against incumbent sheriff George Underwood, a Democrat, who is completing his first term in office.
Jotz began by explaining his early retirement from the Los Angeles Police Department about two years ago. Jotz said an on-duty crash left him unfit for full duty for more than the department's six-month limit, so he was given severance pay for his 15 years of service.
"I didn't shirk my duty in Los Angeles," Jotz said.
Jotz said he is back to full health, jogging and working out daily, besides operating a 65-cow ranch with his wife and five daughters in Thomasville.
When questioned, Jotz said the Alton Board of Aldermen fired him in January, in part, for not getting along with the Oregon County Sheriff's Department. Jotz said he does not intend to file a civil suit against the city, and chose to pursue the sheriff's position to help residents.
"People feel like they don't have a voice," Jotz said, adding that, if elected, he wants to form a civilian committee to relay community concerns to law enforcement. "No longer will people be ignored."
Jotz used as an example the February murder of a rural Alton woman, Narda "Addee" Pranke, who Jotz said complained to Underwood and chief deputy Eric King "many, many times" about neighbors she feared. Pranke's concerns were ignored, he said.
"I promise, that will never happen again," Jotz said.
Gary Smith, a retired northern California sheriff's deputy, said he was shocked to learn Oregon County deputies are not required to attend specialized law enforcement training.
Committee treasurer Gene Boren said he is most troubled by the two local deputies charged with felony crimes. One week before the meeting, former deputy Dophes "Gene" Barton pleaded guilty to four felony counts each of burglary and theft. Another former deputy, Darrin Sorrell, is awaiting trial.
"Officers must uphold the law," Boren said. "They're not doing that."
Mike Slack, a writer, said he was concerned when he read that the city of Alton used the county's license for Crimestar, a computer software program that cost about $3,000.
"Isn't that a felony?" Slack asked.
Jotz said that any theft of more than $500 is a felony in Missouri. Jotz said he told the board several times that the city must buy its own legal copy of the program. The city has since done so.
Kelly asked if Jotz knows what the sheriff's department operating budget is annually.
"I don't know what it is, but it's low for a county this size," Kelly, a retired St. Louis police officer, said.
Jotz said the county commission sets the budget, adding that he asked Underwood how much the budget is. First, Underwood said $500,000, and then said it was reduced to $200,000, Jotz said.
Jotz said he was able to stay within his $50,000 budget for the city of Alton, which required paying utility bills for a residential house near city hall used as the police station.
Outside the meeting, Deb Slack told Jotz she believed his comments were sincere, but, if he is elected, and citizens believe Jotz lied to them, they will do everything in their power to get him out of office.
"The only negative thing I heard about you -- I was told that Alton Police officers were stopping people on P Highway for doing 32 mph in a 30 zone," Mike Slack told Jotz. Slack asked Jotz if he agreed speed-limit enforcement is for safety, and should not be a revenue-generator for a city.
Jotz agreed and said P Highway has special considerations -- many driveways and a hill -- which he had Missouri Department of Transportation verify the speed restriction of. Jotz said he did not issue tickets unless motorists exceeded the speed limit by at least 15 mph.
In a previous interview, Jotz said Alton leaders told him he needed to write more traffic tickets than he had been.
A comparison of Thayer and Alton city-issued tickets from all infractions indicates Thayer received about $65,000 from violators during the past 12 months, compared to Alton, which received about $12,000. The tallies do not include community service in lieu of court-imposed fines, court costs, restitution or jail fees.
Traffic fine amounts are set by a state uniform traffic fine schedule, and do not vary between law enforcement agencies. How the fine revenue is used, however, varies between the two cities. The bulk of Thayer's fine compensation goes to the street department, while Alton's goes to the city's general fund for law enforcement.
Neither city had a readily accessible breakdown of the offenses that resulted in fines.
At the March 17 Republican caucus in Alton, the following delegates were selected to participate in the 8th Congressional Convention on April 21 in Poplar Bluff:
Mike Dethrow, Jinks Wynn, David Case and Laird Kelly.
The following delegates were selected to attend the State Convention on June 2 in Springfield:
Jinks Wynn, Leza Smith, Laird Kelly and Sandy Crews.
Missouri Democrats will once again have the opportunity to vote and express their preference for the Democratic nominee while they begin the process of electing delegates to the Missouri State Convention.
Mass meetings for the 2012 delegate selection process will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29.
A meeting will take place in each Missouri County, where delegates and alternates will be elected to attend the next step of the delegate selection process. However, individuals wishing to run for National Convention Delegate do not need to elected at the mass meeting level.
A list of mass meeting locations is available on the Missouri Democratic Party website at www.missouridems.org/content/locations. Oregon County's meeting will be at the courthouse in Alton.
The Missouri Democratic Party recommends that Missouri voters wishing to participate in the State Party's delegate selection process attend a mass meeting in their county.
Delegate selection participants should contact their County Committee Chair for more information. For a list of contact information visit the Missouri Democratic Party's website at missouridems.org/local-committees.
Oregon County Democrat Committee contacts:
Chair -- James Lee Reed, Myrtle, 417-938-4341
Vice Chair -- Mandy Trantham, Alton, 417-778-1809
Secretary -- William Young, Alton, 417-778-6331
Treasurer -- Jane McNear, Koshkonong, 417-867-3717.