Sheriff Johns addresses supervisors’ letter, plans to respond to the board May 9
By Debra Moore
The efforts of Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns to obtain more pay for his staff received a response May 2. Board of Supervisors Chairman Dwight Ceresola read a letter on behalf of the entire board addressing comments leveled at the supervisors by the Sheriff, several of his staff, and various other county employees, regarding low pay. Remarks have also been aimed at the county’s human resources department citing lack of timeliness in processing applications.
“There have been more than a dozen articles, letters to the editor and numerous employees including the sheriff – in person – at our meetings to air grievances,” Ceresola read. “As the Board of Supervisors, we are expected to get things right, spend the public’s money wisely, and make sure what we say is based in fact, so please listen very carefully because we’ve been doing our homework.” The letter went on for a couple of pages and can be read here.
While the letter enumerated application/hire rates for several departments, the bulk of the letter addressed the sheriff’s department and included information reported by a private investigator hired by the county to determine why individuals were leaving the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Todd Johns was in the audience but did not respond at the time. He intends to do so during the board’s next meeting May 9.
Sheriff Johns discussed the supervisors’ letter with Plumas News and shared some responses to assertions that were made beginning with the statement “51 people have left the Sheriff’s Department since July of 2022.” The Sheriff said that according to his records, from January 2022 through the present time, 22 individuals have left, which includes patrol, corrections, dispatch, boat patrol, victim witness, and extra help. He also pulled past records and did a 3-year comparison. For the years 2016-2019 (he was not sheriff), 70 people left the agency. Sheriff Johns said 58 have left in his three-year tenure.
The letter asserted that at least two attempts were made to obtain employee “exit interviews from the Sheriff or Undersheriff with no response …” Johns said that he did respond. He consulted with an attorney and while he couldn’t turn over the interviews, he did provide names and contact information for each of the employees. “To say that there was no response by me was completely inaccurate,” Johns said.
The letter then went on to say: “Any well-run organization knows that it needs to understand why its employees are leaving. We knew that if we want to be successful in recruiting people to work in the Sheriff’s Department, we need to understand why people are leaving.” Johns said he was disappointed that human resources didn’t share employee concerns with him, so that he could address issues.
The letter continued “The investigator could not reach all 51 individuals who had left the Sheriff’s Department but he did speak to 30. Out of 30 people interviewed, 16 were critical of management, 7 cited pay and/or benefits as the reason with one of those 7 also criticizing management; 4 retired, 2 moved out of state, one went part-time and one cited changes to OES.
“They should be critical that’s how we improve,” Johns said, “but what are they critical about … are those things in my control?” He cited working overtime shifts, changing shifts, covering other positions, as all examples of issues that arise when the department is understaffed. He also said that his staff dealt with two years of fire and two rounds of the pandemic that rendered their jobs even more difficult. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if some employees weren’t happy. But he added that obviously there are employees who like working at the Sheriff’s Office, because they could go to any number of neighboring agencies and immediately receive a pay increase (some without having to move), but they choose to stay with Plumas.
The letter went on to say: “In terms of recruitment, there was a meeting in December of 2022 with Sheriff Johns, Undersheriff Hermann, HR Director Nancy Selvage and CAO Debra Lucero about recruitment and retention. When the Sheriff was asked about the 24 applicants who applied for the various open positions in their department since August of 2022, the response was the applicants had not passed background. When asked for an example of why they are not passing background, the response from the Undersheriff was that one said they smoked marijuana.”
Sheriff Johns explained that was just one example, but that they must abide by federal rules as much as state rules when hiring, and marijuana is still a schedule drug so it’s illegal. There were other extenuating circumstances in the case, but those details are confidential, he said. Johns also explained the intense background check process which involves layers of interviews for family, friends and coworkers of the individual, including site visits, as well other background check criteria. Often those interviews and checks reveal information that makes the applicant not a good fit for the department, even if the application made it through the Human Resources requirements. Additionally, in some instances, by the time the application was received by the sheriff’s office, the individual had taken another job.
Sheriff Johns summed up and said, “I think our hiring, applications, and attrition numbers are very consistent with what has happened over the past years.” He added that he and his staff have been disappointed and offended by the process, and continue to be concerned about the ability to provide the level of service needed by the county.
3 thoughts on “Sheriff Johns addresses supervisors’ letter, plans to respond to the board May 9”
The recent article in Plumas News regarding the letter that Board of Supervisors Chairman Dwight Ceresola read during the May 2 Board of Supervisors stated that his comments were “in behalf of the entire Board”. Since this letter was extremely critical of our duly elected Sheriff, I think it is extremely important for the citizens of our County to know if his comments accurately reflect the opinions of all the Board members. Did all Board of Supervisors sign this letter?
Has anyone considered Mr. Hagwood’s letter of support for Dwight Cline during the last election as a valid reason that he recuse himself from any open or closed discussion or decisions concerning PCSO? Conflict of interests arise when a board member’s duty of loyalty to stakeholders is compromised. In this particular case, this could be why we are seeing a great deal of toxicity within the BOS. It seems pretty obvious considering the unnecessary and wasteful investigation that a conflict of interest has arisen.
We should have gotten Mr. Cline elected way better human-being.
Make Plumas Great Again!
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