Former Whitley County Jailer Les Moses has decided not to seek the job again.
Moses announced Friday morning that he would not be seeking the jailer’s job again as he previously indicated in a April 12 interview with News Journal reporter Dean Manning.
"I’m not going to put my name back in the hat," Moses said. "I feel like the problems are still there with the financial part of it. I would be stepping right back in to what I stepped away from. At this point, I just felt like I should stay away from it."
Will Moses ever run for jailer or other political office again? He doesn’t think so.
"I would love to, but at this moment I just don’t think I will step back into it," Moses said. "It is not the office part. It is the political part of it.
"I just think there is not the closeness there that there should be between other officeholders. I don’t know. There is just something missing that should be there. For right now, no I don’t think I will."
Moses was elected jailer last year, but resigned in January after serving only eight days on the job.
Ken Mobley, the man who Moses replaced as jailer, was appointed as jailer until November’s General Election when a permanent replacement to fill out the remaining three years of the term will be made.
During a meeting Friday morning in the Whitley County Fiscal Courtroom which Moses organized, he addressed reporters, Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr., PVA Ronnie Moses and County Clerk Kay Schwartz about his reasons for leaving the jailer’s job earlier this year.
Why he left
Moses said that when he took office, White told him twice that the jail might have to close in a few months because of the financial problems.
The nearly $3 million jail budget anticipates about $800,000 in funding annually by housing state inmates, but last summer the state inmate population at the jail dropped significantly.
White agreed that there were serious financial issues at the time Moses became jailer.
"Les, I feel like I told you that the jailer’s position was a difficult position. I feel like that I told you the truth," White said.
White and Moses both agreed that the jailer’s job is perhaps the most difficult job in the county.
"If we were to the point where the jail was about to close, I couldn’t figure out why this was an issue when I stepped in the door," Moses said. "The only thing that was a concern at the time is we need to get more state inmates.
"This is what we were doing, but the impression I was getting was it didn’t matter what we brought in, it wasn’t going to be enough. This is what I based my main resignation on. I felt like it was getting to the point where the jail or myself was going to be the issue of the county being financially strapped. This is why I felt like I should step down. I didn’t hear about none of this being in that bad a shape before I stepped in."
Moses said he was afraid people would think he was to blame.
"Me just stepping in here, it devastated me. I’m thinking these people are going to think that I am to blame," Moses said. "Before I got into the financial part of it, I thought now was the time I needed to step away from it because it was much worse than I imagined that is why I stepped away from the jail."
Finances worse than thought
Moses said that he knew the jail had financial issues, but didn’t know how bad the issues were until he became jailer.
"The county jail is a service, like the police department, the sheriff’s department, the 911 service and the ambulance service," Moses said. "It is here to serve the people. It is not made to be a moneymaker. You can do things to help off-set the costs of it, but it is not going to support the county and take care of their financial problems."
White said that the other departments, which Moses is comparing the jail to, don’t cost the county $1.5 million out of its general fund budget annually.
"The county jail’s finances are directly related to the success of the county," White said. "It is very important how it is financially operated. It has been an issue in the past. Ken Mobley walked into it when he started. The entire county was bankrupt because of the financial issues raised by the jail. It’s a constant battle."
Moses said that the budget problems made him feel like his hands were tied.
"I told the judge I feel like I am financially strapped, and my hands are bound right from the get go. Right off the bat, he put a cap on hiring. There were people I needed to be in there for a reason, but we couldn’t hire any more," Moses said.
Moses said that he looked at the budget a lot and talked with the judge-executive a lot before taking office.
He said the first thing he started doing as jailer was cutting wherever he could, such as reimbursing people for mileage and requiring them to use a jail vehicle for trips to the courthouse.
Employees with the litter abatement program were driving trucks home, and then driving to the far end of the county during the day to clean roads before coming back to town for lunch and then driving back out to the far end of the county, Moses said.
"I stopped that the first day," Moses said.
He started sending bag lunches for prisoners to eat.
"They had concern about these prisoners being in restaurants and stores and things like that. According to the Department of Corrections, they are not supposed to be," Moses said.
Cutting food costs
Moses said he spoke with several jailers before becoming jailer, and that he spent a day at one jail in Adair County because of how it was run.
That jail raises a garden and stores the food grown there so that it can be used year round. It also runs its own food service program. It had meal prices down to about 30 cents per day, Moses said.
"They had good meals and four full-time cooks of their own," Moses noted. "He had the same staff, the same amount we had."
The Whitley County Detention Center contracts out its food service, and pays about $1.15 per meal, White said.
White said that he likes the garden idea, and is doing all he can to encourage the Whitley County Detention Center to grow a garden.
Moses said he knows that cutting expenses takes time, but the impression he got when he started was it had to happen now.
Why he reconsidered
"I didn’t just come back and want to take the job back," Moses said. "It wasn’t like, ‘I made a mistake and I want to take the job back.’ It wasn’t that. I was approached first of all by the state representative. He said, ‘We’ve got a problem finding a replacement for you.’"
Moses said that Bunch told him the Republican party wasn’t going to nominate Mobley, and weren’t satisfied with the candidates pursuing the job.
"The representative asked me if I would consider taking it back,’" Moses said.
Moses told Bunch that he would consider it "under those circumstances."
"The one thing I hesitated about was stepping right back into the same situation that I left, but for the people I was ready to do it again," Moses said.
He spoke with White and Schwartz, and found out that he would have to go through the special election process.
Moses said that everywhere he had ever worked before, people would go to someone starting out and ask what they could do to help or what they could do.
"Let’s get together and put our heads together and let’s fix this thing. I wasn’t hearing that when I walked in it," Moses said. "It was ‘Les you have to do this as quick as you can.’
"The one thing I wanted to hear more than anything was to be close to the judge, the sheriff and everyone in the courthouse. It takes everything to make this thing work. I just didn’t feel that. I just didn’t feel it at all. I guess that was one of the things that got to me the most."
Moses said that he felt like he came in at a point where people were struggling and looking for a problem.
"I felt like that was directed right towards me and the jail at the time. It might not have been, but that is the way I felt about it. I felt like that was the time for me to step away," he said.
"I don’t regret running for the office. I felt like that is where I needed to be."
Moses said that being overwhelmed by the job wasn’t the reason that he left the jailer’s position as some county officials have speculated.
"If I felt like I can’t do it and do it the way I need to do it, then I don’t need to be there that is why I stepped way from it," Moses said.
Never promised anything
"I never really promised anything," Moses said. "These rehab programs and things like that, everything that I tried to come up with for the jail or the people I tried to get everything where it wouldn’t be a cost to the county.
"This was one of my main goals. I didn’t want the county to foot the bill no more than what they already are. If anything, I wanted the jail to be able to pay back the county for helping keep them up."
White said the current jailer has followed through on some of the reforms that Moses started.
"At one time, we thought we were going to have to borrow some money to get through this fiscal year. We are not thinking that will be the case any more," White said.
He said the number of state prisoners have increased from about 40 back up to more than 80. The jail has done some other things to reduce overtime.
White said he’s not sure the reason for the increase in the number of state inmates.
"We expect to get through this fiscal year with a small surplus. We are actually in better condition at this point in the year than I thought we would be," he said.
White said there may still be one or two county employees off on voluntary layoffs.
White added that the debt of Whitley County has been reduced by over $6 million over the last four years.
"The debt of the county is not going up. The debt of the county went from $19 million when I was running to $13 million currently," he said