Sheriff candidates split on renewing tax

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Democratic candidates facing off for the office of Scott County sheriff have each raised thousands in campaign contributions.

What incumbent Rick Walter and challenger Bobby Sullivan plan to do about a half-cent sales tax may have more power to sway voters.

The tax is scheduled to end this year, and the department faces finding ways to replace more than $750,000 in revenue -- which paid for jail operations, and repaid bonds for the new jail. The bonds will be paid off this year.

Sullivan said he would support finding a way to renew the tax, with conditions, including earmarking the money for specific law enforcement operations, such at E-911. He said if the tax is renewed, it should again have an expiration date. He also said he would like to review the budget thoroughly and find ways to keep as many deputies on patrol as possible.

Walter said he is against renewing the tax. He said he has worked on such income-producing programs as housing immigrant detainees and found that municipal departments within Scott County could also benefit. The program, Walter said, would allow the county to take in as many as 30 detainees if the county jail has space. If not, he would have the option of asking Scott City, Chaffee or other departments to take them; the cities would be paid $25 a day for the inmates. The county would get $56 per inmate. Walter said jail costs would not change because any costs over and above those mandated by the county would be paid for by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services funds.

Walter said other fees at the jail are collected for booking, telephone services, the commissary and a medical co-pay program.

He said a kiosk recently installed will allow family members to deposit money directly to an inmate's account, reducing the amount of money being handled by county employees and the processing time required.

Each candidate garnered more than $10,000 for his campaign.

Sullivan's campaign raised $15,526 and spent $14,639.89. During the reporting period that ended July 15, his campaign raised $2,020. Cash support has ranged from Terry Brewer Cheatham's $25 cash contribution and from Ferrell Court Services and Ferrell Enterprises, $200 each. Former Scott County sheriff Bill Ferrell is on state records as a principal of both Ferrell companies. Jo Donna and Homer Markhart of Cape Girardeau donated a combined total of $500.

Walter said Ferrell's support for Sullivan was "insignificant."

Sullivan said the former sheriff's support indicated "who he knows is the best person for the job."

Walter's July 15 campaign finance filing reflects $10,061 in donations. The campaign had recorded $9,214.33 in expenditures. Oran Mayor Tom Urhahn gave $100; the Craftsman Independent Union donated $325. Russ Mothershead II, a manager at Midwest Grain & Barge of Scott City, gave $325, as did Mothershead's father.

Both Sullivan and Walter said reopening the closed investigation of 1992 shooting death of Angela Mischelle Lawless is not part of the election.

Sullivan said, "An experienced investigator would know that no case is ever closed. Anything that could be considered new evidence should be considered."

Walter said his decision to reopen a case considered closed with a conviction -- Joshua Kezer remains imprisoned for the crime -- has upset some law enforcement officials.

"If this hurts my election, then so be it. It's still the right thing to do," he said.

The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Republican candidate Wes Drury in November.

Two in commission race

The other contest Tuesday in Scott County is for the Democratic candidate slot for District 2 commissioner, between auto mechanic Donnie Kiefer of Chaffee and trucker Shelby L. "Skip" Steger. Both are self-employed.

Kiefer, 49, owns Kiefer's Service and serves as a member of Chaffee Board of Education and is past president of the Chaffee Police Personnel Board. He campaigned in 2002 for the 160th Missouri House District. Kiefer said he supports a half-cent tax for law enforcement if it will benefit the entire county.

Steger, 55, owns Steger Trucking. He has never held public office. Steger has said he would work to bring new jobs to the county and would support a half-cent tax for law enforcement.

The winner of the primary will face off with Republican Ron McCormick, appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt in 2006 after Jamie Burger was elected presiding commissioner.

For complete profiles of Tuesday's Scott County candidates, visit the elections page at www.semissourian.com.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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