Turning constable duties over to the county sheriff seemed at first to be a way to save a few of the 15 jobs being cut from the department but now appears impractical, the Davis County commissioners were told Wednesday.
A five-person committee, including the sheriff, named to make recommendations on providing constable services to the county, is advising that two full-time constables be appointed.Commissioner J. Dell Holbrook, also on the committee, said initially it was thought that the work, which generates about $150,000 in revenue annually, could be turned over to the sheriff's department.
But the workload is too much, sheriff Glenn Clary said, and the existing staff in his department's warrants division can't handle the extra paperwork.
The sheriff is struggling under a mandate by the County Commission to cut 15 positions from his patrol, dispatch and operations divisions, saving about $530,000 annually, to help finance the 34 additional positions needed to operate the county's new 400-bed jail, scheduled to open this spring.
"We originally hoped we could save four to five jobs and generate around $150,000 in revenue by taking over the constable duties," Clary said. "But we determined we couldn't handle the extra workload."
Clary said his "bare bones" staff in the warrants division is handling around 250 services a week now and can't handle the additional paper load.
"It needs to be handled by a separate constable service," Clary said.
The sheriff's department generally handles arrest warrants, witness summons and other legal paperwork generated by the criminal court system. Constables generally handle legal notifications, evictions, and the paperwork generated by civil courts and attorneys.
The paperwork handled by constables is paid on a per-service fee basis.
Constables were elected positions until the state Legislature in 1990 revised the state statute, making them appointive positions answerable to county commissioners.
Davis County had three elected constables, and the study committee is recommending the appointment of two, empowered to appoint deputies as needed.
Under committee recommendations, the constables will be certified peace officers. Losing their state certification would automatically terminate them, county attorney Mel Wilson, another committee member, said.
The constables will maintain an office with set hours, wear uniforms to distinguish them from peace officers, and carry a photo identification card. All papers served by their officers will be clearly marked as coming from a constable, the committee recommended.
The constables will also be bonded to protect the county from liability and be required to attend one training course annually.
The uniform requirement is to prevent confusion between constables and sworn peace officers, which sheriff's department officials say has been a problem in past years.
Some deputy constables have either deliberately or accidentally left the impression they are deputy sheriffs, the officials said, which left a negative impression with some members of the public and cast the sheriff's department in a bad light.
Although appointed by the commissioners for a six-year term, the constables will not be county merit employees, personnel administrator Steve Baker said. They will be paid from the fees they generate, not out of county funds.
The commission is taking applications for the two jobs through the end of the month and expects to appoint the two constables in March.