Concerns about justice program discussed and Deputy Roland Merwin is sworn in as acting sheriff

By Nikki McKim

The Richardson County Commissioners formally accepted the resignation of Richardson County Sheriff Don Pounds during their July 9, 2019 meeting. 

County Attorney Douglas Merz advised the board that a motion to designate an acting or interim Sheriff from July 9, 2019, until a new appointment was made would be appropriate. Commissioner John Caverzagie made a motion to appoint Deputy Roland Merwin Sheriff until the permanent position is filled. Deputy Sheriff Merwin accepted the position and was later sworn in as Richardson County Sheriff. 

Sheriff Merwin has served as a Deputy with the Sheriff’s Department for 18 years.  

According to Nebraska State Statute, an appointment for permanent Sheriff will need to be made within 45 days of the resignation of Pounds, which will be August 23, 2019. A notice is published in today’s Falls City Journal advertising the position of Richardson County Sheriff. The Richardson County Commissioners will take applications until the closing date of July 29. Whoever is appointed Sheriff at that time will serve the remainder of Pounds term which would be until January 2022. 

The Commissioners went on to discuss about the JUSTICE Program that former Sheriff Pounds had previously discussed during past Commissioners meetings. 

Former Sheriff Pounds had stated in a written letter to the Commissioners during a May 21, 2019 meeting that, “I will NOT allow the J.M.S. (Jail Management Software) server to be located at a separate location than the jail. The server being located at a separate location increases security risk and accidental damage risk that I, as Sheriff, and NOT willing to take.”

The former Sheriff continued, “In addition to J.M.S. server, I will NOT allow the R.M.S. (Records Management Software) location to be at a separate location either, for the same reasons. R.M.S. will communicate with J.M.S., Dispatch software, and county attorney if the attorney purchases the same software. The purchase for the software has already been approved by you. The only contention is the location of the server CRIMES is to be installed upon. I would like to continue purchase of the program, but the location of the software must be on servers already purchased and in use by R.C.L.E.C.”

In the second letter to Commissioners during the same time regarding the Contract for the C.R.I.M.E.S. Record Management System with the software vendor, Justice Data Solutions, Inc., Sheriff Pounds stated he would agree to the contract if “Exhibit B” which he drafted ” (the program will be installed on the server at the Richardson County Law Enforcement Center and that the Sheriff will provide to the software provider the identity of the Law Enforcement Center’s I.T. person who will have control of the CRIMES program,) and was attached his correspondence, was made part of the agreement.  

The former Sheriff’s concerns were addressed during the July 9, 2019 meeting, Joe Buckminster, IT (Information Technology) person for Richardson County spoke to the Commissioners and said that he talked to Wendy from JUSTICE and was brought up to speed on the situation regarding the program previously discussed with the Commissioners. 

“Some of the concerns that I had as far as security when I recommended separating the two, basically she told me that we would be crazy to do that,” said Buckminster. 

He told the Commissioners that it would be a good idea to combine the software. 

“If we didn’t, we would be the only agency probably in the country that they (JUSTICE) support that wouldn’t,” said Buckminster.

He explained that Wendy from JUSTICE gave him a rundown of the cities and states that have the same situation with the county and local Police Departments and they maintain their own backups and they’ve never had any data loss. 

“Don [Sheriff Pounds] was mentioning some concerns with corrupt servers and different scenarios like that, and to her knowledge, they’ve never had an incident like,” said Buckminster.

The Commissioners and Buckminster discussed the issue of the current contract ending July 31, 2019, and the new contract beginning around September 1, 2019.  Buckminster said he would discuss the possibility of getting a smaller extension where it’s a per month basis to get into September or October, so there is some leeway time and meet with the commissioners on July 17 to let them know what can be done. 

Sheriff Merwin said he and his team were going to start saving and download off of I.T.I. “I’ve got some people lined up; I may have to bring more in, it will be quite time consuming,” said Merwin. 

Buckminster said he knew there were some concerns about information being shared, but Wendy at JUSTICE explained that they would still have the ability to share booking information between the two agencies, open cases would be limited access, and once they’re closed, they consider it a locked file. 

“So I don’t think there’s any concerns with inappropriate abuse of the software,” said Buckminster.

During the meeting, it was also noted that Current Jail Administrator Jon Kirkendall resigned from his position but will stay on at the Sheriff’s Department part-time as a deputy. Sheriff Roland Merwin stated that he had asked former Richardson County Sheriff Randy Houser to join the department as the temporary Jail Administrator.

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