Former sheriff unloads on Hodge at final CAC meeting of the year

Sheriff candidate Paul Sumrall was the featured speaker at the final Citizens Against Corruption meeting of the year, but it was former sheriff Larry Dykes who stole the show. A dozen candidates spoke at Shady Grove School in front of a crowd that was as large as 70 people at one point, but that didn’t satisfy the 69-year-old Dykes, who is running for Beat 2 supervisor.

“Where are the other people who are running? Are they hiding?” Dykes asked, referring to the Thursday night meeting that was open to all candidates. Dykes blasted the current supervisors over the state of the roads and bridges, but he saved his harshest criticism for the man who took the sheriff’s office from him 11 years ago. “We need a new sheriff,” Dykes said without hesitation. “When I left office in 2008, the budget was $2.8 million.”

The current JCSD budget is close to twice that much and Hodge requested millions more during the last budget meeting. Dykes said if he was elected to the position of supervisor, “I ain’t giving him a damn dime.” As for why Hodge dodged a CAC-hosted debate with the other sheriff candidates and why he refuses to answer questions posed by the Leader-Call, Dykes said, “He can’t stand the truth.”

Sumrall, who is running against Hodge for sheriff, was just as harsh in his criticism of the current sheriff. “We’ve got a problem we have to solve. We have got to cut this crazy spending, but the sheriff is asking for another $3 million. I think he has enough,” Sumrall said.

But the retired businessman was only getting started. “The sheriff spends too much time running B Clean and he’s using that badge to help B Clean,” Sumrall said. “I’m working hard for the taxpayers. The taxpayers of Jones County are the boss, not Alex Hodge.”

Sumrall said that drugs are the number one problem affecting Jones County and that it would take everyone working together to fix the problem. He lampooned the current sheriff for only tackling the problem at election time and making sure that he got “publicity” for “finally doing his job.”

Still livid over the way the Lyon Ranch Road raid and animal seizure was handled by the sheriff, Sumrall said, “That dog deal was mishandled more than anything has ever been mishandled” and because of it, the taxpayers of Jones County could get stuck with paying millions over a lawsuit. “The sheriff took those people’s personal pets and had them euthanized. That’s like taking someone’s children from them,” Sumrall said. “He stripped them and cavity-searched them ... (Col. David Senne) served 23 years in the armed services, and (Hodge) euthanized their dogs.”

The tall, elder statesman had some fun with Hodge, too. “I’m prettier than he is,” Sumrall said. “I got more hair than he does and I can look down upon him.” However, Sumrall was serious in the end when he said, “If Joe (Berlin) or Macon (Davis) win, I’ll help them any way I can cause we need change.” Earlier in the night, Beat 1 supervisor candidate and former Jones County School Board member Harlon Mathews spoke. He said that the supervisors “can’t be successful without communication.” He said that current road and bridge repairs should have been completed years ago. He also said that he would not accept any budget from the sheriff’s department without first seeing an audit. Richard Baker, who is also running for Beat 1 supervisor, echoed Mathews’ belief that “communication” is the key. He believes in working with the sheriff and that all people should be treated equally. Bob Barber, who is running for Beat 4 Supervisor, said,

“There are too many incompetent people fixing our roads.” But he also said, “I don’t believe in tax increases and I don’t believe we need a sheriff who is promoting himself or his business.” He added, “We are here to support the taxpayers. We have city and county employees, even supervisors, who are sleeping on the job.”

Beat 3 Supervisor candidate Johnny Wright said, “We can’t wait until two months before the election to pave all the roads. We’ve got to be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and we’ve got to start working our way out of debt.” When asked, he said, “I’m for funding the needs of the sheriff, but how can we fund the sheriff when we just borrowed $9.2 million? I don’t see giving him any more money, but I’m not just going in to (give him a hard time) either.”

Sheriff candidate Joe Berlin said that “we need to bring respect back to the sheriff’s department.” He said that he has been told over and over that some of the deputies are “disrespectful” to the citizens they were hired to serve. He also said that he would not allow out of county deputies to take their county vehicles home.

“A JCSD car is not a deterrent outside of Jones County,” he said. Berlin added, “We need a sheriff who will get out and work along side of the deputies and lead by example. I’d dedicate 100 percent to the citizens who pay my salary.” Berlin said he also wants to repair the relationship between law enforcement agencies that has suffered under Hodge’s leadership. “There’s no reason why all of the local law enforcement agencies shouldn’t be working together, helping each other,” he said.

The relationship between the LPD and JCSD is not good, but it would be repairedunder his leadership, Berlin said.

In regard to the JCSD budget, Berlin said, “I will have no problem working within the current budget. Some positions need to be cut because they are there for no reason.”

He said he would use that money for certain key positions that need to be upgraded. When Berlin was asked by an audience member if he was aware of a “$46,000 a year sergeant that only changes oil on JCSD vehicles,” Berlin responded, “I am aware and

he needs to be out of law enforcement.” Finally, in regard to why Berlin chose to run as an Independent candidate instead of a Republican or Democrat, Berlin said, “I ran as an Independent because the sheriff should be for everyone.”

Constable candidates Mike Sims and Danny Gibson, and coroner candidate Phyllis Pitts also spoke at the meeting, as did Justice Court judge candidates Stacey Walls and Marian Allen.

But it may have been Jack Fairchild, former co-host of “The Right Side” with Chris McDaniel and current co-founder of Right Way Strategies, who put the entire night into perspective. “This is my first Citizens Against Corruption meeting, and you guys put on a great event,” he said. “It’s hard to get people to come out for a meeting like this, but if you are at a meeting like this, it means you are hungry for change.”

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