Ennis officials and county sheriff to discuss working relationship, communication

The Ennis Town Commission wants to address the interlocal agreement between the town and the Madison County Sheriff’s department.

During their meeting last Thursday, town commissioners asked Ennis Mayor John Clark to meet with Madison County Sheriff Dave Schenk to talk about the agreement and address concerns the commission has about communication between the sheriff’s department and Ennis Chief of Police, Scott Newel.

The agreement hasn’t been addressed since 2007 and it should be looked at every year, said town commissioner Becky Vujovich.

“I would like to look over the agreement from top to bottom,” Vujovich said.

Ennis has one police officer and one reserve police officer. When Newel is not on duty, law enforcement for the community is handled by the Madison County Sheriff’s department and that relationship is outlined in the interlocal agreement. It also stipulates that the town will pay 17 mills to Madison County for the sheriff’s service, Clark said after the meeting. Currently that equates to about $31,000 a year.

At the meeting, Clark told the commission he would prefer to wait to address the issue until later in the year because the commission is currently dealing with a lot of other business.

However, it’s important to begin discussions with the sheriff, because communication between Newel and the sheriff’s department has become a concern, said commissioner John Bancroft.

Ensuring the two law enforcement departments are communicating is important from a safety standpoint, Bancroft said.

“I would like to see you talk to him,” he told Clark. “We’re in the dark right now. We don’t know anything.”

When contacted after the meeting, Schenk was surprised at the town commission’s concerns.

“Our interlocal says we shall keep their town officer advised,” Schenk said. “We’ve made every effort to keep him informed and that’s what I ask my officers to do. I’m not aware of any meeting or frustrations.”

The sheriff’s department provides law enforcement services for all the municipalities in Madison County under interlocal agreements. This is in addition to their regular law enforcement responsibilities for the rest of the county, he said.

Though the agreement hasn’t been addressed since 2007, it is in effect perpetually unless either party wants to address it and make some changes, Schenk said.

“Basically it’s an ongoing agreement unless the parties want to meet and discuss it,” he said.

In the agreement, communication requirements are defined as: “The Sheriff shall keep the Town’s Police Officer informed of any and all law enforcement activities within the Town’s jurisdiction. The Sheriff or a deputy shall provide to the Town Commissioners a monthly report, at a regularly scheduled commission meeting, of activities generated as a result of this agreement. This report shall include the number of calls for service, reported crimes, arrests, crimes cleared by arrest, traffic citations, court appearances and items of recovered property or property confiscated.”

The sheriff and his deputies try to keep Newel informed of all ongoing investigations in Ennis, Schenk said. However some investigations or situations might be taken care of while he was off duty and so may not need to be communicated.

“It’s pretty hard to keep him informed of everything,” he said. “There are times when he may not have to deal with it because it hasn’t involved him. If we have ongoing cases … we keep informed of all of them. The officers do that personally.”

Mayor Clark is planning to contact Schenk this week about a meeting.

The important thing for the town commissioners to remember is there are going to be two sides to the issue.

“We got to realize the commissioners are only hearing one side of the story too,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to try and talk with the county commissioners and Dave Schenk and say these are the underlying problems we need to address. We need to get to the core of the problem and take care of the problem because it benefits both sides.”

The interlocal agreement, when it’s working well, benefits the town, Clark said.

“It works really well and it’s a lot cheaper than hiring another officer if both departments are working well together,” he said.

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