Montana sheriff resigns over jail funding

Montana sheriff resigns over jail...

SUPERIOR, Mont. - The sheriff of a northwestern Montana county has resigned in a dispute with county commissioners over funding for the county jail.

Mineral County Sheriff Tom Bauer says he resigned Monday mainly because of his disenchantment with county commissioners.

Commissioners will consider the appointment of an acting sheriff.

Jacob Jasper hopes that whoever they appoint is someone that has good leadership qualities.

"I hope we get a little bit better leadership out of it. I think the sheriff is a pretty important role, and I hope that he'd be a good leader," said Jasper.

The county's jail was closed two weeks ago due to a lack of jailers. Bauer told NBC Montana he wanted commissioners to pay detention officers more and was hopeful the jail's closure would be temporary. 

The last of 15 prisoners was transported to another county on Nov. 1.

The county must pay a daily rate of more than $60 a day for each of its prisoners being held elsewhere, as well as transport costs.

Commissioners have appointed a nine-person committee to come up with recommendations on what to do to get the jail reopened.

Many in Mineral County had mixed reactions to Bauer's resignation. Donal Garr is concerned about the perception of losing the sheriff could increase crime.

"I worry that drug traffickers are going to pick up and we will have more accidents, but basically there is a good bunch of people that live here, and we don't have a ton of problems, and everything we do get is from out of town or some place," said Garr.

The staff at the sheriff's office said Undersheriff Mike Boone is now the acting sheriff. 

The jail's closure isn't the only money issue in the county -- in the summer of 2016 there was a strike over pay at the same detention center among the detention officers, dispatchers and deputies. 

Kathy McGowan, at the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, said it's not unusual for a sheriff to resign or for a county to go without a jail. 

"We're experiencing, as time goes on, that it's becoming more and more difficult as counties are hard pressed to run their jail operations and keep their county offices -- in particular we're talking sheriff's offices -- funded to the level that is necessary in order to safely run a jail," said McGowan. 

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