Undersheriff resigns; sheriff next?

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer March 22, 2013 10:10 pm

Undersheriff Bob Rector
Undersheriff Bob Rector
The uncertain future of Curry County government and the promise of a more secure career has lured Curry County Undersheriff Bob Rector to Central Point.

Sheriff’s jail deputy Cpl. Michelle Johnson, gave her notice Friday, as well.

The resignations are the latest of several for the Sheriff’s Office in the last year.

Sheriff Bishop said he will miss Rector — and Bishop might be right behind him.

“It’s my responsibility to take care of my family,” Bishop said. “And if we’re not going to have sustainable jobs, and if I can’t meet mandates and I am personally liable, I have to reassess.”

The relatively low pay for deputies, rural location and the county on the edge of insolvency has made it hard for the Sheriff to attract and keep qualified personnel. 

As for possibly leaving his job, Bishop said, “It is not my intent to leave the county high and dry, but it’s something I have to look at.

“I’m not aggressively looking. I have turned down a couple of nice jobs in the past; if another comes by, I might have to take it.”

It doesn’t help that many residents oppose to a public safety property levy on the May 21 ballot, questioning the need to raise money to fund the Sheriff’s Department. 

“After awhile, this gets tiring,” Bishop said. “My job is to provide public safety, not keep defending my office.”

According to Bishop,  Rector is taking a civilian post with the Oregon State Police, where he will work as the administrator of the Southern Oregon Command Center — the dispatch and call center. His last day, and that of Johnson’s, is April 12.

“I wish I could say I could afford to wait until what happens in May, but the job market is real tight,” Rector said, referring to the public safety levy. 

“There aren’t a lot of good opportunities out there. If one happens to come along for me, I can’t afford not to take it,” he said.

Bishop said Rector will see a pay increase of between $15,000 and $20,000 — and possibly more — in his new job. Rector currently makes $69,252, one dollar less than Bishop.

When asked if the possible failure of the property tax levy played a part in his decision, Rector paused.

“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “My actions should answer that question.”

The actions — or inactions — of county commissioners concerns him, as well.

“I’m certainly very concerned about the unified approach in going forward, the collective agreement about how to go forward,” Rector said of public disagreement among the commissioners regarding the county’s fiscal situation. “That’s concerning. It doesn’t spell a promising road map.”

Bishop said he’s encouraging his deputies to keep their options open, as well.

Pink slips “will be coming,” Bishop added, but he’s not sure when.

“It depends on budget hearings and workshops,” he said. “If we’re going to a $2.1 million budget, there will be lots of pink slips. If we can’t meet mandates, I’ll definitely be looking for what else I want to do.”

Vacation and compensation time play into each employee’s layoff date, but if the public safety levy fails, the first deputies to leave will do so at the end of April, based on how discussion goes at budget meetings.

“There’s a lot of unknown stuff about what we’re going to do and not do, at the county level,” Bishop said. “Bob leaving is just the first of many to come. It was (Dep.) Jesse (Lorenz) last week, Bob this week — and I can’t replace them. They don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Rector moved to Curry County in 1996, after his discharge from the Army, and began work with the Gold Beach Police Department. He served as chief for five years. He left to work as police chief of Talent for five years and returned to Gold Beach. If Rector were to stay here, he would have five years at the Sheriff’s Office in August.

Rector relocating to Gold Beach was half the reason Bishop sought the sheriff position, he said. 

“But I don’t blame him one bit for what he’s doing,” Bishop added.

Rector’s job entails internal investigations, policy and procedure evaluations, public records, responding to emergency calls and helping everywhere in the jail where employees are short-handed.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Bishop said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get everything done now.”

“This is bittersweet,” Rector said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. It was a very difficult decision — extremely difficult. With the uncertainty about the emergency services here? And it’s my job smack square in the middle of it. And I’m not ready to retire.

“It’s been a tremendous pleasure to work with John,” he added. “He’s an extraordinary leader. The staff here is the best team I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen a lot of them. They’re dedicated, underpaid, overworked, and they keep showing up for work and doing their best. It’s going to be very tough to leave them; very hard.”