Thursday, 8 September Is Primary Election Day
Three Answers from Jeffrey Gallo And Kenneth Berg
By William Legault
Some time back we here at Salem Digest sent all of the 13 announced candidates for Essex County Sheriff a list of three questions concerning what they would do if elected to succeed current Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins.
We heard back from nine of them, but only six actually sent responses to our email containing the three questions.
Kevin Coppinger Democrat
Ed O’Reilly Democrat
Jerry Robito Democrat
Paul L. D. Russell Democrat
Kenneth Berg Republican
Jeffrey Gallo Republican
Here are the three questions we asked.
- The opioid epidemic has affected all demographics all across the country. What plans do you have to reduce recidivism among those incarcerated that are drug dependent on a personal level or as a way to earn income?
- The relationship with the corrections officers and their union has not been the best. Would addressing that relationship be a priority of your administration?
- With thousands of inmates, hundreds of employees, and a budget in excess of $60 Million, many feel that the budget lacks appropriate oversight. Do you have any plans to examine that budget and perhaps create additional oversight and transparency in order to show the public that the budget is well administered?
We will share the answers provided beginning with Jeffrey Gallo who will be on the Republican Ballot. We did not edit any of the answers.
On a personal note, my father was addicted to heroin and subsequently contracted hepatitis C from sharing needles. I used to go to Cambridge to pick up his weekly dose of Methadone and stood in line with several addicts. He passed away several years ago because they refused him a liver transplant. Addiction is not a disease that has one victim. It consumes families, friends, loved ones, our community and the addict. When I am elected I will make sure that we have the best medical and mental health specialists in the state. We need to get to the core of their addiction by utilizing proper mental health and medical assessments from qualified staff trained in addiction therapy. It takes months of therapy to actually work but the addict has to want to be helped. In a confined environment we can actually ensure that we are making strides with them and teach them what they need to do when they get out of jail. We will set them up with outside agencies to give them a plan when they leave. A lot of addicts have underlying issues such as homelessness, sexual abuse, anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, etc. We will address these issues along with their addiction to ensure that we are providing them with the best chance to overcome their disease. Please understand that nobody wants to be an addict. We need to educate our children as to the dangers or drugs before they fall into this deadly trap.
I have had the honor of being the President of the officers union (ECCOA) for 3 years. I agree that there were problems before I was their professional group of officers and sergeants that have an experienced leadership. Before I became President we had not seen a raise in 6 years, had an adverse relationship with Sheriff Cousins, was involved in several grievances and legal battles with the Sheriff, and our contract was expired leaving us exposed. The executive board and I decided to sit down with the Sheriff and turn our union around in a positive direction. We got our contract with a 15% raise over a 5 year period, settled all litigation, and included the membership in all of our decisions to make us more transparent. Sheriff Cousins continued to keep an open line of communication with the ECCOA and there have Sheriff I will continue to work with the union and it’s leadership to improve morale and help them in any way I can. They are the backbone of the department and will be treated as such. I know what they go through every day and I came from. the most thankless job in law enforcement. I appreciate their service and dedication to this Department.
It has always been my belief that the tax payers should see where their money goes. It’s their legal right to know how we spend our money so I will definitely be transparent in my spending. I will hire a Chief Financial Officer that has a background in dealing with large budgets. I will also be overseeing our spending personally to ensure that we are providing the best possible approach to our spending. We currently are the most efficient department in the state and I will continue to keep it that way. We receive the lowest funding per inmate in the state, so cutting costs will be more difficult for us than any other county. I plan to have a professional grant writer so we can keep our budget down while we implement more educational, vocational, and mental health programs. I believe that the legislatures should look at every county sheriffs department and create parity. We have the highest inmate population and we are the most efficient. Your tax dollars go to every Sheriff’s Department not just Essex County’s Sheriff’s Department.
Also on the Republican ballot is Kenneth Berg. Here are his unedited answers.
The current sheriff has done an exceptional job implementing progressive programs. He leaves behind a solid foundation to build upon. I will build upon these programs and expand them through the development of private and public partnerships. Not one single person or organization can tackle this problem alone. Developing partnerships with local first responders, schools, as well as public and private organizations and agencies will ensure a collaborative force to combat the issue.
I will ensure that our addiction treatment programs are up to date with the best trained staff. By effectively treating the addictions of drug dependent inmates we may realize the benefit of cutting the demand of the opioids that are killing members of our community. As someone who thinks outside the box I would explore the benefits of drug counseling for convicted drug dealers as well. Many drug dealers are attracted to the money in the trade but many are also addicts themselves. A uniquely designed program for convicted dealers would have the desired result of changing their ways and getting them out of the drug trade.
Treating addictions is just one part of the equation in reducing the rate of recidivism. It is equally important to balance addiction treatment with vocational skills and education. It is this total package that will produce an inmate that will become a productive member of our community upon re-entry. Even with treatment and skills inmates must overcome the stigma of being an ex-offender. I will explore partnerships with local employers as well as agencies such as the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to create incentives to hire released offenders.
Yes. Having served as a union president and vice president for many years, and being a manager, I have a unique ability to understand both sides of labor relations. Practicing the art of compromise and engaging in interest based negotiations makes what historically has been an adversarial relationship, a constructive one.
One of the most difficult tasks as a manager is the ability to motivate and inspire employees to want to do the job. As a strong leader who encourages employees to think and empowering them to advocate positive change I can foster a positive, productive work environment.
I have a sincere, genuine concern for my employees. I believe I have a duty and moral obligation to ensure they work in a safe environment and go home to their families at the end of every shift. They will have my full support for the job that they do and that support will include the proper tools and equipment to do their jobs as well as the proper, most up-to-date training available. Additionally employees would have a great deal of personal contact with me as I would be seen throughout the facility on a regular basis.
* mid-year budget review
* Year- end report
As part of my commitment to accountability and transparency I will also accommodate an annual audit report to be performed by any interested watchdog group such as Citizens for Limited Taxation.