Curry ups ante on jail chief search

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Curry County commissioners approved a higher salary range for the jail administrator Tuesday, saying they hoped it would attract high caliber candidates.

County Manager Lance Pyle told commissioners jail administrators are hard to come by and in order to compete in national job search, Curry County needs more to offer prospective applicants.

Commissioners met at the Texico Fire Department, part of an effort to visit outlying communities.

Pyle requested the range raised from between $53,000 and $79,000 to a low end of $68,000, mid-range of $85,000 and a high range of $90,000.

Carlos Ortiz, a Texas native with 20-years experience in corrections is serving as interim administrator while the county conducts a nation-wide search to replace Lois Bean.

Bean was fired in September after nine months as administrator.

Pyle said Bean did not make changes quickly enough and did not make changes as instructed.

Bean was hired last December to replace Leslie Johnson, who retired in August 2008.

The jail has been plagued with problems ranging from mistaken inmate releases to escapes, assaults and the arrests of detention officers.

Eight violent offenders escaped Aug. 24, 2008 and while most were quickly recaptured, one remains at large.
Pyle said he surveyed pay scales of other counties in the state and based his request on the challenges presented by the position and needs of the detention center.

Commissioner Caleb Chandler said he believed it was necessary to raise the salary to attract quality applicants.

“We’re going to have to make this sacrifice,” he told fellow commissioners.

Pyle — who has said Ortiz was not hired with the intention of permanently replacing Bean — said the position has been posted and applications are being taken through Dec. 4.

Ortiz told commissioners he has filled all management positions at the jail and has three detention officer slots still to fill before he reaches maximum staffing.

There are now 234 inmates being housed at the jail, with 74 being housed elsewhere, on furlough or on release programs, he said.

Ortiz said he has not decided if he is interested in the position.

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved a contract with Doerr & Knudson for legal services, continuing retention County Attorney Stephen Doerr at $125 an hour. Pyle said Doerr is paid about $68,000 a year.

• Heard from Lucy Boney, coordinator of the foster grandparent and retired senior volunteer programs. Boney said she has more than 180 volunteers functioning at 16 sites, providing services ranging from mentoring in the schools to assistance with meals and other programs.

• Heard from Grant Coordinator Emily Kizer, who said she is working on grant applications for the abatement of an illegal tire dumping site north of Melrose and an evidence collection vehicle for the sheriff’s office.