The Tompkins County Legislature is considering two proposals, both of which endanger the Office of Tompkins County Sheriff. On August 3, 2016, Marcia Lynch, Tompkins County Public Relations Officer, issued a press release reporting that the Government Operations Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature favors a Local Law that would change the entire office of our Sheriff from an elected to an appointed position. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s Charter Review Committee favors an alternate law that retains election but divides the Sheriff’s duties. Under this alternative, the elected Sheriff would retain only civil functions such as the jail and process serving. The Sheriff’s law enforcement authority would be transferred to an appointed Commissioner heading a County Department of Police.
The Tompkins Republican Party, speaking for thousands of registered Republicans across Tompkins County through its Chairman, James Drader and with the support of the Republican members of the Tompkins County Legislature, strongly opposes these proposals to weaken the elected office of Sheriff and/or to strip the Sheriff of independence.
Tompkins County Republican Chairman Drader said, “The division and gutting of the elected Sheriff’s authority or of going to an appointed Sheriff are ideas that the public should completely reject. The notion of eliminating local voter control over the part of the Sheriff’s job that makes the Sheriff the most powerful law enforcement official in Tompkins County runs against our concept of respect for the electorate and of limited government. The county sheriff is historically and currently the highest ranking law enforcement official in Tompkins County. Law enforcement is an essential function of Sheriff.
“As for abolishing public election of the Sheriff, electing our key public officials is both democratic and a cherished public right. The office of an independent Sheriff is critical, as the Sheriff provides elected and independent local voter control over law enforcement. The office is deeply rooted in our law dating back many centuries. And, if the public feels a sheriff is not doing a good job, that is why we have elections.
“The legislature should also considered cost and efficiency factors. Why incur the salaries and benefits of both an elected Sheriff but with reduced duties and at the same time hire an appointed County Police Chief at a high salary? Aren’t taxes already high enough?
“There are very practical concerns here for the public. The Tompkins Republican Party supports the importance of vital checks and balances, retaining the full job of a Sheriff who is not reduced to being the mere servant of the Legislature. Morphing the law enforcement part of the Sheriff’s job into an appointed Police Commissioner is very undemocratic, centralizes too much power in the County Legislature, creating huge potential for political corruption.
“County residents should be outraged by these power grabs and should let their voices be heard by the County Legislature when they discuss this issue. These ideas are insults to the value of democracy and people being able to choose their leaders, to the independence of the office of Sheriff, and an offensive overreach for control by the County Democrat’s legislative majority, particularly at a time when County voters have elected a political Independent as Sheriff. We also urge Tompkins County residents, regardless of party, to sign an on-line petition to stop this power trip in its tracks.” The petition can be found at: