Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

June 12, 2013

Board member blames sheriff's department for radio problem

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — An Effingham County 911 Board member said the county sheriff’s department is to blame for the persistent inoperability issues that have plagued sheriff’s deputies in recent years.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Effingham County Emergency Telephone System Board, Ted Heath charged that the sheriff’s department had the money to join Effingham city police and the Illinois State Police on the STARCOM radio system, but chose to spend the money instead on components for a high-band radio system.

In a letter Heath wrote to Chief Deputy (and fellow 911 board member) John Loy and read aloud at Tuesday’s meeting, Heath said he would like to avoid future interoperability issues. Consequently, he said, he would like the sheriff’s department to provide documents that show how the high-band system was developed.

Heath said it was important to study the documents “in order to have a good understanding of how these events developed and in order to learn from history and hopefully avoid future interoperability issues.”

The requested documents include:

• Copies of all state and federal grant applications filed by the sheriff’s department since 2005 that are related to communication issues.

• Copies of all documents since 2005 related to grant approval for communication issues.

• Copies of all documents the sheriff’s department sent to grantor agencies in which the use of grant funds was documented.

• Copies of request for proposal documents in which high-band system requirements were outlined.

• A list of vendors who received those system requirements.

• Copies of all bids received for high-band system development.

• Copies of all invoices paid by the sheriff’s department since 2005 related to the high-band or any other communication system.

Heath noted that the radio bridge developed earlier this year to enhance interoperability between sheriff’s deputies and other agencies was recently disabled, putting communication issues back where they were before the bridge was developed. Sheriff’s deputies have repeatedly complained they cannot effectively communicate with other agencies when out of their squad cars.

Heath said after the meeting that the sheriff’s department misled other agencies at the beginning of the process several years ago.

“They led us to believe they were going to STARCOM,” Heath said. “They have always argued they didn’t want to pay the user fees, but behind the scenes they were spending their grant money on high-band components.

“Enough is enough.”

Heath said he doesn’t expect the sheriff’s department to give him the documents, adding he is prepared to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

Loy was not at Tuesday’s meeting. Neither he nor Sheriff John Monnet were available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last for longtime member Russ Thomas, who is leaving the board after 16 years. Thomas noted Tuesday that he had attended 204 consecutive meetings.

“I still had red hair when I was first named to the board,” Thomas said with a chuckle.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.