On April 24, 2018, Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada, filed a lawsuit against the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He also personally named Freeholder Director Jonathan M. Rose, County Treasurer Robert Maikis (spelled “Mikas” in the lawsuit), and Freeholders George F. Graham and Carl F. Lazzaro.
It came as no surprise, Strada had publicly threatened the Freeholders for months. What was a surprise was the vindictive small mindedness of an elected Sheriff that has been, by his own employees assertions, mishandling his department while costing the county millions of dollars in salaries and capital bonding for years.
In a rambling, convoluted stream-of-consciousness rant, the Sheriff proclaimed that the defendants unlawfully interfered with the day to day operations of the Sheriff’s Office.
According to the response filed at the county last week, the follow egregious acts were charged;
- Defendant Maikis “hung up on him” (Complaint, par. 6);
- The County’s insurance company requested a video from him (U par. 7);
- Defendant Maikis denied his $50.00 reimbursement request for a political donation (Jd: par. 11); (the Sheriff presently has a balance of $42,600.99 in his campaign account);
- Wantage Township signed up with Vernon for dispatch services (Jd: pars. 12-18, 25);
- The Sheriff attended a regular meeting of the County Republican Committee and threatened to sue the Freeholders in June 2017 (U pars. 29-31);
- The Sheriff had breakfast with Freeholder Petillo in August 2017 and she “listened” to him. (Id. pars. 32-34);
- The Prosecutor’s Office and County Administrator questioned the Sheriff after a brutal beating of an inmate at the jail by his Officers was publicly disclosed by a newspaper. ((d: pars. 38-43);
- The Freeholders provided the Sheriff with IT support. (Id. 46-50);
- The Freeholders unanimously voted to release Executive Session meeting minutes in October
- 2017 with respect to the brutal inmate beating by the Sheriffs Officers. (Id. pars. 51-56);
- The County Administrator conducted an investigation m response to the Sheriffs request that he do so. (Jd: pars. 57-62);
- The Freeholder Board questioned a Sheriffs employee in 2017 (Id. pars. 65-66);
- The Sheriff received 3 new cars in 2017 and the Sheriff wants his own new car (Id. pars. 67-70); and
- Defendant Graham complimented the Sheriffs response to a disastrous storm in 2018 (U pars. 71-75).
The lead-up to the suit was political theater at its worst. The suit was timed to inflict a political cost on the incumbent freeholders that were trying to reign in the out-of-control sheriff’s budget.
- Before the Sheriff was elected, the previous Board of Chosen Freeholders reduced all incoming Constitutional Officers salaries to the state minimum. Strada realized he needed more income, so he coerced the new board to provide him with an unlawful stipend to serve as county OEM (Office of Emergency Management). It lasted until Sheriff Strada was informed that he was not eligible to serve as OEM Coordinator. He then enlisted Senator Oroho to change the law, allowing him to be the salaried OEM. But, according to another County Sheriff, Strada should have returned the payments received before the law was changed. He didn’t.
- In 2013, Sheriff Strada allegedly blew his department’s educational budget treating himself to an all-expenses-paid stay at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The Sheriff never reported any of his activity to the Freeholder Board or advised them of the cost. The county footed for all the tuition, fees, travel, meals, plus allowed him to away from Sussex County for several months. The Sheriff received a certification that he can use for his future career. All at Sussex County expense. OPRA requests are pending.
- The Sheriff has an added problem, his jail is staffed for over 200 inmates, but he only has about 80 inmates a day.
- He has staffed the 911 Dispatch Center with crony’s and insiders.
- His department staff is controlled by insider appointments and double-dipping good ol’boys.
- Lawsuits and grievances are at an all time high.
So, what is the Sheriff to do??? Blame somebody else!
The Sheriff has been spending tax dollars at a rate that is unsustainable. According to inside sources, the Freeholders diplomatically attempted to restore some sanity to the Sheriff’s out-of-control finances, but have not cut the Sheriff’s budget.
More to come…