Eye on the race for Greene County Sheriff

By Susan Gibbs

At first, Steve Smith came across as the real deal when he ran for sheriff four years ago. He waged a clean campaign starting two

Retired Virginia State Police Officer Brooks Taylor is Eye on Greene's choice for Greene County Sheriff. In contrast to Incumbent Sheriff Steve Smith, whose term has been marred by at least one "back room deal" and scandal, Taylor has run a dignified campaign, refusing to respond or retaliate to the harassment of his family and supporters.

Retired Virginia State Police Officer Brooks Taylor is Eye on Greene’s choice for Greene County Sheriff. In contrast to Incumbent Sheriff Steve Smith, whose term has been marred by at least one “back room deal” and scandal, Taylor has run a dignified campaign, refusing to respond or retaliate to the harassment of his family and supporters.

years in advance of the election.

Once in office he exposed some funny business that had gone on in the last administration, he instituted programs meant to bring his deputies closer to the people and, as promised, got out into the community and talked to people.

But things took a turn in the spring of 2012, when, just months after taking office, Smith went before the Greene County Board of Supervisors and essentially blackmailed it into funding one of his new programs by threatening to turn animal control back over to the county if they did not give him the money he wanted.

The dialogue, which took place during a budget workshop, began when then-Chairman of the Board Jim Frydl asked Smith to explain a $15,000 line item that translated into a 25 percent raise for Smith.

“It’s compensation for animal control,” Smith said, before going on to explain that animal control, which had been handled by the previous sheriff’s administration without question, was “more of a headache than you know. Every day, I don’t know how many calls those guys get, but people complain about their animals more than anything else. You just wouldn’t believe it.”

“If (a 25 percent raise) is not allocated to you, do you have a plan moving forward?” Frydl asked.

“Yeah,” Smith responded. “Turn it back over to the administrator.”

At Large Supervisor Eddie Deane—who is now screaming corruption at the top of his lungs–then revealed his collusion in the matter by commenting, “That was a discussion we (Smith and Deane) had back in the summer (pre-election).”

“You’ve got people complaining about other people not having their tags … you name it, they complain about it,” Smith pressed.

Frydl then noted that the program is not mandatory, and so if Smith refused to take responsibility for it: “The county does not have to have that program at all. So the alternative would be for the state animal control warden to handle it. That would be a problem in its own right, I would imagine because they’d have to come from Richmond.”

“That would be a problem,” Smith said.” When I first took office I went for a couple of weeks without an animal control officer until we found somebody and we couldn’t do without him. We just couldn’t do without him.”

After some discussion about the cost of vehicles, community policing, Smith’s citizens’ academy and junior academy, the discussion returned to the matter of a $15,000 raise for Smith.

“I have a hard time with that because it’s not money to animal control to cover the cost, extra money for dispatch, extra money for animal control. It’s specifically added to your salary. I have a hard time with that because the expense, I would imagine, is incurred more with the operation of the …” Frydl was saying when Smith interrupted.

Incumbent Sheriff Steve Smith began his term in office by making a "back room" deal and is ending it with scandal and dirty politics.

Incumbent Sheriff Steve Smith began his term in office by making a “back room” deal and is ending it with scandal and dirty politics.

“Let me explain it to you like this,” Smith retorted. “It doesn’t matter to me whether I get it or not, I don’t mind turning it back over to the county. It doesn’t matter to me. I was going to take the increase, the money that I got, and … put it into the golf tournament and into the public safety foundation that we just formed. That’s where I was going to put most of that money. I wasn’t going to say anything about it; it’s not for me personally. I really don’t want the money, but I feel like somebody should be compensated for handling that position, so if you want it back, its fine with me.”

Frydl reminded Smith: “It shows up as a request for you for a 25 percent pay raise. So when it goes out to the public it does not asking for a donation for these other things, it just comes out of the budget as a personal request from the sheriff.

Smith reminded Frydl: “I have to deal with all the complaints and all the other issues that go with it, so that’s just where I am.”

Then-Supervisor Clarence “Buggs” Peyton (Stanardsville) commented that in the past animal control had been done by the county administrator. “There was a substantial amount of double dispatch … it’s a nightmare,” he said.

Smith pointed out that there would also be a problem with calling Richmond to send someone to the county: “They’re not going to send somebody up here five, six, seven times a day,” he said. Moreover, “If they get a call, and they are heading for the animal call and they get a call for something else of course they’re going to the other call. The animal call might not get taken care of … it might be at night, or it might be any Saturday, you never know.”

He explained that though he was not going to take the money for himself, rather, he would put in into public programs, “I do feel like … I should get some benefit out of it. I’d like to have the benefit of having it on my retirement. I think that’s only fair.”

The discussion continued, with the county financial officer, Tracy Morris, pointing out that if the $15,000 was listed as salary, it would be salary, but the reality was that if Smith made a donation to a charity, then the county would be giving that money to Smith’s charity.

Frydl pointed out that listing the money as salary for the sheriff was in violation of the county’s personnel plan. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville, who is running for re-election), asked Morris if the money could be listed under any other operating expense, and Smith stood firm.

“I want the benefit for retirement,” he said.

Morris pointed out that if the $15,000 was listed as salary, “He can do whatever he wants with the money. If he wants to donate it, he can donate it.”

Smith said, “What I’m going to do if it’s approved and I do get it , I will write a check every month to the … whatever the foundation, take the kids shopping every year, and probably do the public safety foundation … I’m just worried about how it looks to the public … but I’ll be able to explain it.”

To Eye on Greene’s knowledge, Smith has never explained it to the public. Instead, he has affiliated himself with a group of people led by the Greene County Republican Committee, including Deane, his chosen replacement, Bob Young, and Lamb, calling for an end to backroom deals and for transparency.

Moreover, Smith’s time as sheriff has been marred by:

  • The removal of a four-year-old suffering from attention deficit disorder by handcuffing him and taking him to the sheriff’s office in a squad car. The incident made the national news, an attorney from the Rutherford Institute was brought in, and yet Smith’s administration has made no announcement of a policy that would ensure that such an incident never occurred again.
  • $8,000 in damage done to his county-owned Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, when, instead of reporting the accident for investigation by the Virginia State Police, the vehicle was taken to an auto body shop out of county for repairs, where its decals were removed before Smith reported the incident to the county administrator.
  • His involvement with the Greene County Republican Committee (GCRC) and the related “Concerned Citizens of Greene County, Va.” The latter, with contributions by Smith’s mother and others, has served as a vehicle to ridicule and smear candidates opposing those endorsed by GCRC, along with their known supporters. As a result, Smith has driven a wedge between his office and the community, virtually negating the public relations work he has been doing for the last four years and creating an atmosphere of fear that covers this county like a pall.

The well-qualified Taylor, on the other hand, has led a dignified campaign, taking care not to respond or retaliate, even when his family and supporters were harassed. Eye on Greene’s coverage of their forum.

More on Concerned Citizens of Greene County, Va. can be viewed at http://eyeongreene.com/eye-on-concerned-citizens-of-greene-More information about Smith and Taylor can be viewed at http://eyeongreene.com/candidate-forums-end-with-sheriff-steve-smith-and-challenger-brooks-taylor/,

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