At a time when scrutiny of public safety spending is as intense as ever, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department is keeping two former sheriffs on its payroll as consultants.
Former sheriffs Frank Anderson and Jack Cottey are each being paid $35,000 per year out of the department’s commissary fund. Those funds do not come directly from taxpayers, but instead from telephone and food-snack charges to inmates and their families at Marion County jails.
The commissary fund spends about $2 million per year on top of the department’s $102 million budget funded by taxpayers.
Anderson, a Democrat, and Cottey, a Republican, started working for Sheriff John Layton in March 2011 when he asked them to investigate the death of a pregnant woman at Liberty Hall, a Marion County prison run by a private contractor.
Since then, Cottey and Anderson have continued work on a variety of projects for Layton, said Kevin Murray, an Indianapolis attorney who serves as legal counsel to the sheriff’s department.
“This is a great example of how government ought to work—taking advantage of institutional knowledge so that you’re not reinventing the wheel,” said Murray, of the law firm Frost Brown Todd LLC.
But the relationship drew criticism from Gary Welsh, a local attorney who writes the blog Advance Indiana. In a Sept. 9 blog entry, Welsh questioned why Cottey and Anderson were still on the payroll.
“I don't think it is appropriate for the sheriff's office to be paying former sheriffs to provide consulting services for the office. It smacks of cronyism at its worst,” Welsh wrote in an e-mail Thursday morning. “Both individuals are drawing lucrative pensions from their former government service, and neither possesses the appropriate qualifications for the services they are reportedly performing for the office.”
Cottey became sheriff in 1995 after defeating Layton, a Democrat, in an election. His tenure involved several controversial incidents, including an investigative report in 2000 by WTHR-TV (Channel 13) showing Cottey drinking at bars and then driving his county-owned vehicle. Cottey insisted he never drove while drunk.
And, in December 2002, Cottey’s last month as sheriff, he called 911 to complain about his car being towed.
“I commend Sheriff Layton for forgetting politics and wanting to get things done,” said Cottey, 73, who quit his job with a security company when he started working for Layton. “He said he had ideas on things that he wanted to get our experience on. I couldn’t say no.”
Anderson, the former director of the Federal Witness Protection Program and a former U.S. marshal in Indiana, succeeded Cottey in 2003. He served as sheriff through 2010.
Both Anderson and Cottey keep an office at the sheriff’s administration center on South Alabama Street. Cottey said he's in the office at least three to four hours a day. Anderson said he works a similar amount of time, either on site or off. Both said they make themselves available to Layton all hours of any day.
Anderson and Cottey periodically visit Marion County Jail 2 to check up on the private contractor that runs it, Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America.
Cottey, a former state representative, helped the sheriff’s department give input to legislators on issues with Indiana’s sex-offender registry, which was studied this year by a summer legislative committee.
Anderson, who spent much of his career planning building security for the federal government, has helped the department take over security at the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis.
Both men helped Layton study the possibility of obtaining federal funding to build a new criminal justice center that would, in part, provide space for about 150 federal convicts from Indiana now housed in Kentucky due to lack of space.
And both men have advised Layton on ways to find savings in the department budget at a time when Mayor Greg Ballard has zeroed in on public safety for budget savings.
For example, Anderson and Cottey met early this year with officials from Wishard Health Services, which bills the sheriff’s department for all arrestees brought there for care or for Wishard patients who end up being arrested.
Those costs had spiked for the sheriff’s department after it took responsibility for them in 2010. Anderson and Cottey said they worked with Wishard security officers to be more judicious about which patients actually needed to be arrested.
“This is where I started my law-enforcement career,” said Anderson, 74. “I felt what better place to put those years of experience that I have to work with an agency that I started out with.”
Ben Hunter, a Republican member of the City-County Council, said the sheriff’s department’s contracts with Anderson and Cottey are “not bad, if there’s been productive work.”
“It should be reviewed,” said Hunter, a former Indianapolis police officer who is now chief of staff to Butler University President James Danko. “I would like see the work product, an annual report, or presentations that they have made.”
Hunter said if Anderson and Cottey can help the sheriff’s department operate more efficiently, then paying them now will pay off later. But, he added, “If you come back eight years from now—even three or four years from now—and they’re still on the payroll, then yeah, I am going to have a critical eye toward that.”