Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard's office was called "incompetent" recently in a scathing report from a state commission and now Sheriff Howard is firing back.
In their recently released report the State Commission of Correction blamed jail mismanagement for an incident last October that involved an inmate escaping his cell and climbing onto the Erie County Holding Center roof. The inmate taunted deputies from the top of the downtown jail for a few hours before surrendering peacefully. The deputy who failed to properly check the cell door was fired soon afterward, but Sheriff Howard continues to defend his administration's response to the incident following the release of the report from the Commission of Corrections.
"Management's role is to set procedures ahead of time which we did and the procedures were appropriate," explained Sheriff Howard on Tuesday, "It's the duty of our employees to follow those or to face discipline."
The report was issued by the Chairman of the State's Commission of Correction, Thomas Beilein, and it says the rooftop incident involved gross negligence and incompetence on the part of Sheriff Howard. Beilein used to be the sheriff in Niagara County and when he was seeking the corrections job Howard says he wrote a letter of recommendation for Beilein because Beilein asked him too. "I believed that Sheriff Beilein would be able to go to Albany and get that agency under control and I guess I was mistaken in my belief," says Howard.
Sheriff Howard says the Commission of Correction has long been an out-of-control agency accountable to no one. He says the commission promised sheriffs statewide that reports such as this one about the rooftop incident would be released to sheriffs first before they would be made public through the media.
"So much for the honor and the integrity of the Commission of Corrections to do what they just did. The media once again had that report before we got it," says Howard who adds that the same thing happened when the report on the Ralph "Bucky" Phillips escape was released. Howard says he's preparing a point-by-point rebuttal to the commission's report and he says he will give the commission a chance to review his detailed response first before it's released to the media.