Under Sheriff Howard’s watch, twenty-two people –mothers, fathers, sons, daughters—have died in the Erie County Holding Center. This is well above the national average, and it has become a point of interest in this election. As it should be.
What has gone under-noticed, though, is that even while uncovering massive usage of overtime in the department and issuing press releases on those expenses, the incumbent comptroller has refused to perform an audit of the sheriff’s department.
Audits can be performed to measure financial health and integrity, but the Comptroller also has the ability to perform audits on compliance. Both types of audit are sorely needed for our county’s jail system and our community, especially its most vulnerable members, suffers daily because of this lack of oversight.
The office of Comptroller exists to check these systems, ensuring they work for our community. Even as he was uncovering massive uses of overtime that cost the County thousands of collars, Stefan refused to do his job. In fact, he has consistently chosen his party over his responsibility to our community.
Someone once said that the true measure of a society is the way it treats its most vulnerable members. In Erie County, this means approving things like hospital improvements, child care subsidies, and other programs that help hurting families. But it also means that our holding center should be safe for detainees awaiting trial. This includes people that poverty has driven to the depths of desperation, individuals grappling with the illness of addiction, and community members struggling with mental health concerns. As things stand, too many individuals in the holding center find themselves defenseless against mistreatment, abuse, and even death.
Today, I stood with Bernie Tolbert, candidate for County Sheriff, and pledged to perform a meaningful and complete audit of the department. As Comptroller, one of my first acts will be to perform a comprehensive audit of the Sheriff’s department. I will identify waste, abuse, and mismanagement where I see it, and I will demand accountability. Erie County, enough is enough. We deserve better. The most vulnerable in our community deserve better. And I will stand with you, and our new sheriff, in demanding that.