Wednesday, January 02, 2013

TOP STORY >> Only one holdover as Staley moves in

Leader staff writer

John Staley, Lonoke County’s new sheriff, is replacing all but one of the top employees in his office.

The only person he is keeping in an administrative position is Lt. Jim Kulesa who has experience in running a jail as well as drug enforcement and public information.

Staley named Mike Kindall in early December to replace Dean White as chief deputy. But he said he isn’t ready to name his replacements for Capt. Steve Finch, Lt. Keenan Carter, Detective Tanya Cross and Sgt. Samantha Graber who runs the jail.

“I have people in mind but I’m not sure where they will fit best,” Staley said.

Technically, the job of laying off the staff fell to Sheriff Jim Roberson, whose 10 years on the job ended at midnight Monday, when Staley was sworn in.

“He’s the new sheriff. That’s his decision,” Roberson said about the changes. “He knows what he wants to do but he let some good people go. They were all good investigators and very loyal to who they worked for.

“Steve Finch has worked through four or five sheriffs,” he said. “Carter is a go-find-‘em guy. He can find ‘em and bring ‘em in. Cross is a good sex-crime investigator and Sam Graber is a good jail administrator,” he said.

Roberson, who fired one detective when he became sheriff, said perhaps there should be rules against laying off employees when a new sheriff takes office.

“Maybe you ought to be able to change out your chief deputy because you need someone who thinks like you but not the others. We’re losing a lot of knowledge there,” Roberson said.

Staley points out that the sheriff’s department has 65 employees and he’s changing only five.

His dramatic win in November over Roberson’s chief deputy was a mandate from the voters for change, Staley said.

“I can’t go in there with Jim’s administration,” he said. “It’s not that I dislike them. They’ve been good employees for the county and I appreciate their service. But we’re moving forward. I have to have people I know.”