Sheriff withdraws plan to restructure department, lay off deputies
There will be no layoffs, demotions or restructuring in the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Greg Hagwood and Supervisor Jon Kennedy delivered the news in a joint announcement at the Feather Publishing offices in Quincy on Thursday, Oct. 11.
The announcement came just two days after a heated Board of Supervisors meeting that included terse exchanges between Hagwood and Kennedy over the sheriff’s budget cuts.
At one point during the Tuesday, Oct. 9, board meeting, Kennedy said to Hagwood, “Now you are calling me a liar.”
During that meeting, the board voted 3-2 to accept the reorganization the sheriff said was necessary because the supervisors cut nearly $760,000 from his budget.
Hagwood proposed reorganizing his department by demoting two sergeants and two investigators to patrol deputies. He was also going to ask the supervisors to approve more cuts Tuesday, Oct. 16. The cuts would have demoted four deputies to corrections officers at the county jail.
“I will be pulling my agenda item for Tuesday’s board meeting, where I was poised to lay off four deputies,” Hagwood said.
Hagwood and Kennedy were upbeat during their meeting with a Feather Publishing reporter. They said they worked out their differences “for the good of the citizens of Plumas County.”
Their announcement came one hour after a meeting that included Hagwood, Kennedy, Supervisor Terry Swofford and District Attorney David Hollister.
“I’m very relieved. Very pleased,” Hagwood said. “And I think the citizens of Plumas County can enjoy a renewed sense of confidence based on the events of (Thursday) morning, where Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Swofford, Mr. Hollister and I came together and set aside the events of the last two months — and particularly this last week — and focused on genuinely working together. When it comes to public safety, our priorities are the same.”
Hagwood said the sheriff’s office and the two supervisors at the meeting agreed to concessions, and a commitment by both sides to monitor the sheriff’s budget on a monthly basis.
The agreement still required approval by the Board of Supervisors. But Kennedy said the approval should be a formality.
“I feel that the board will completely agree with what Terry Swofford and I discussed with the sheriff,” Kennedy said. “The board has already indicated clearly that they have a strong commitment to public safety.”
Part of the agreement calls for the sheriff to use state grant money from Assembly Bill 443 to offset cuts from the county’s general fund.
Hagwood previously objected to Kennedy’s proposal to use AB 443 funds. He called it “supplanting,” which he said was illegal.
But during Thursday’s announcement, the sheriff said using up to $500,000 of AB 443 funds the way Kennedy proposed would not be considered illegal.
“When it (using AB 443 funds) is done by design, then supplanting becomes an issue,” Hagwood said. “But it was not done by design in this case. We have historically spent that money in this fashion, and will continue to do so.”
Kennedy, who let Hagwood do most of the talking during the press announcement, reassured the sheriff that he wasn’t trying to tell him how to spend his department’s money.
“It wasn’t by design,” Kennedy said. “But, in my mind, I’m saying, ‘I think you will still be OK (with the general fund cuts) because you’ve got money coming.’”
The sheriff nodded in agreement. And then he clarified why he was initially opposed to the AB 443 suggestion.
“I took exception to those monies being identified specifically in the context of the larger budget discussion,” Hagwood said. “And Mr. Kennedy is absolutely right, insofar as those monies being spent for the purposes that he’s proposing.”
Hagwood and Kennedy stressed that making the new agreement work would be contingent on concessions from the employees union. Hagwood said he felt the employees were willing to help.
“In my conversations with my staff, they are fully aware, and absolutely prepared, to make the concessions that will allow Mr. Kennedy and I to be successful in meeting our goals that we have put together,” Hagwood said. “They (employees) play a central role in our overall success.”
The sheriff admitted that he has felt the stress of this year’s budget process. He said reaching an agreement was a “tremendous” relief.
“The events of the last couple months will no longer be an added source of anxiety, not just for those of us involved in county leadership, but for the citizens of Plumas County,” Hagwood said.
“Confidence during these times is very, very important,” he said. “I feel like we now have taken a train that was completely derailed and off the tracks … We righted it. It’s on the right track. It’s headed in the right direction. Because we (the sheriff and the supervisors) made commitments to each other to make it that way. Because we understand that that’s the way it should be.”
The sense of relief displayed by Hagwood and Kennedy was clearly visible as the press conference wound down. They said their personal relationship outside the boardroom probably helped solve the problem.
“Mr. Kennedy and I can have very strong and opposing viewpoints. And we can carry on heated debates in the boardroom setting. And we have. And we may very well in the future,” Hagwood said. “But we can leave that setting with the ability to sit down and continue to work toward a solution.
“And that is what we expect of each other. And that’s what the citizens of Plumas County rightfully expect from each of us.”
The sheriff went on to praise Kennedy, who is often the target of critics because of his outspoken opinions. Hagwood said Kennedy takes his job very seriously.
“Mr. Kennedy has taken a leading role on the board. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.” Hagwood said. “And with that willingness, given the topics at hand, Mr. Kennedy understands that there are risks attached. He accepts that.
“Our goals are the same. But our roles are very different,” Hagwood added. “While I’m singularly focusing on my responsibility as the sheriff, Mr. Kennedy has a very broad scope in terms of the collective issues that he’s addressing throughout the county.
“I sympathize with him in terms of what he’s dealing with,” Hagwood said. “There’s a price to be paid when you —”
“Meddle in everything,” Kennedy said, trying to finish the sheriff’s thought.
“— When you take a leadership role and you involve yourself in these issues as vocally as he has,” Hagwood said, finishing his own thought.
“I totally agree with that,” Kennedy said to Hagwood. “You put things more eloquently than I do.”