Fayette County

Lexington mayor assigns officials to investigate city's jail, E911 center

Lexington Mayor-Elect Jim Gray shown in his company, Gray Construction, on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 in Lexington, Ky.  Jim Gray is chairman and CEO of Gray Construction.  A replica of the 1948 Ford pickup his father, James Norris Gray, used when James Norris Gray founded the company in 1960 is in background.  Photo by David Perry | Staff
Lexington Mayor-Elect Jim Gray shown in his company, Gray Construction, on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 in Lexington, Ky. Jim Gray is chairman and CEO of Gray Construction. A replica of the 1948 Ford pickup his father, James Norris Gray, used when James Norris Gray founded the company in 1960 is in background. Photo by David Perry | Staff

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has reassigned two top city officials so they can assess "perpetual problems" at the Fayette County Detention Center and the city's 911 call center, he said Thursday.

The temporary appointments comprise the first hands-on step in reviewing issues that have affected the performance of both divisions, Gray said.

Deputy Chief David Boggs, a veteran with the Lexington Division of Police, will lead a management review at the jail; Glenn Brown, former jail director and senior adviser to the mayor for special projects, will investigate the Division of Enhanced 911.

The appointments did not affect any jobs at the jail or E911, city spokeswoman Susan Straub said. No concrete deadline was given for completions of the reviews.

"It's all about assigning experienced problem solvers — good managers — with boots on the ground to go in and get their arms around the problems and offer solutions," Gray said.

David Lucas, director of E911, said he welcomed the management review.

"Fresh eyes never hurt," he said.

Lucas said the review did not come as a surprise. Investigations into E911 and the jail were part of the mayor's Fresh Start Program, which Gray spoke about even before being elected last year.

On Thursday, Gray said overtime spending for dispatchers and call-takers is one of the issues that will be examined.

Lucas has said mandatory overtime is used to combat a staffing shortage.

E911 has an annual budget of $6.5 million, Lucas said. The division employs 69 people, including telecommunicators, supervisors and assistants, though that number has varied over the years. Lucas said in an interview last year that ideally he would have a staff of 76.

According to budget records obtained by the Herald-Leader through an open records request, E911 paid civilian employees $394,987 for more than 13,991 hours of overtime in fiscal year 2009 (July 2008 to June 2009), the most recent data available. Thousands more was paid to nine firefighters who filled in as dispatchers during that period, records say.

Several employees recorded nearly $20,000 in overtime, according to records. Some individuals worked more than 600 extra hours during fiscal year 2009.

In fiscal year 2008, E911 paid $322,558 for 11,471 hours of overtime. In fiscal year 2007, the amount totaled $326,596 for 12,009 overtime hours.

In addition to overtime, staffing levels, productivity and employee morale will be assessed during the E911 investigation, Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason said. Both E911 and the jail fall under the city's Department of Public Safety.

Brown said the E911 investigation would take as long as it takes.

"If it takes six weeks, it takes six weeks," he said. "If it takes two, it takes two."

Once changes have been made, additional time will be taken to assess their effectiveness, Brown added.

"We want to make sure that the changes work," he said.

Mason said officials had set aside about three months for Boggs' review of the jail, but that could change depending on findings.

Problems at the jail — including numerous discrimination lawsuits against the jail — were highlighted last month in a Public Safety Transition Team report. Also, the jail is currently the subject of two investigations, Gray said.

One of those investigations is the Fayette County Sheriff's Department's annual inspection of the jail's performance. Sheriff Kathy Witt began that inspection Jan. 11 and is scheduled to report to the Urban County Council on Feb. 25.

The Kentucky Human Rights Commission also has been investigating allegations of a sexually hostile work environment at the jail, which has faced at least three lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, sexual discrimination or retaliation by male corrections officers.

Last month, Kevin Michael Lawson, a former corrections officer, was charged with sexual abuse and indecent exposure after allegedly exposing himself to an inmate. According to court records, Lawson was on duty when he was filmed on jail surveillance video following a female inmate into a bathroom, where they remained for about five minutes. The inmate told officers Lawson exposed himself to her, records say.

During Teresa Isaac's term as mayor from 2003 to 2007, the FBI began investigating the facility after receiving reports that jail staff members were assaulting inmates and writing false reports to cover up the abuse.

Five jail employees faced federal charges for the abuse in 2008. Three pleaded guilty, and the two who went to trial were sentenced to prison in June.

A spokesperson for the jail could not immediately be reached.

Gray declined to discuss specific problems that would be examined at the jail. Boggs said the review of the jail is in the planning stages.

"There have been sufficient symptoms to illustrate we need to give a lot of attention and the best management that we can," Gray said.

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