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Where they stand: Houston Gaines




Reporter Annie Goeller interviewed can­didates for Johnson County sheriff on a wide range of issues. Use these pages as a guide to help you make your voting decision.

Houston Gaines

Party: Democrat

Age: 56

Residence: Franklin

Family: Wife, Dee; three grown children

Education: Attended University of Arizona, U.S. Air Force and University of Indianapolis

Occupation: Retired from Marion County Sheriff’s Department

Political experience: None

1. What are the three most important law enforcement issues facing Johnson County? How would you as sheriff address those issues?

Crime is most important issue. Crime has been increasing. People don’t realize the costs of crime to the courts and the jail. Would reach out to teachers, churches, schools and government leaders to get multiple organizations involved in fighting crime. By putting groups together, they can offer opportunities to people who feel there is none. Jail is second issue. Voted against the expansion that was on the ballot in May because there are alternatives to an expansion. Was stunned with the county’s estimate of $87 million for the most expensive jail plan because a five-story jail was built in Los Angeles for $74 million. Not all the possible alternatives have been studied. Has seen weekly reports of jail population, where 197 of 316 inmates in the jail were there for misdemeanor crimes. Would work with courts and prosecutor to establish a bail commissioner in the county. When people are arrested for nonviolent offenses, such as public intoxication, the bail commissioner could decide to have them released, instead of them sitting there for days. With the current economy and people out of work, wants to know how many people are in jail on contempt charges for not paying child support. Wants to start a program where people who haven’t paid child support could work off that debt by doing work at the county park, instead of the county paying Indiana Department of Correction inmates. The money could be sent to the people they owe, and it would stop them from going to jail. Third issue is the sheriff’s office needs to gain the respect of the public. Children and adults don’t respect law enforcement. People see police in trouble across central Indiana. Wants to build a rapport with public and let them know the sheriff’s department is a friend and they can be trusted.

2. What experience or qualifications for the position of sheriff do you have that make you more qualified than your opponents? What management experience do you have that makes you more qualified than other candidates to be sheriff? Have you ever created and managed a budget besides your personal one?

Has experience in the military, Marion County Sheriff’s Department and federal court system. Created, owned and operated company for seven years, and managed 19 to 24 loss-prevention workers. Ran accounts payable and a six-figure budget. Knows employment, criminal and traffic laws. Experience puts him above other candidates. He is also the oldest. Knows the needs of different areas of the county and how to take care of them.

3. Does the sheriff's office need more deputies or jail officers? How many and why? How do you propose paying for them?

Sheriff says the county needs eight more jail officers, but the county council turned down the request. If the sheriff says we need eight, he believes him. If elected, he would look at using the commissary fund surplus to pay for at least four of those officers. Then in the next year’s budget, would see how the county’s fiscal condition has changed. Current jail officers are being worked fairly thin, and it would be a priority to get more in order to prevent injuries. The county needs three to five more road officers. Would work with U.S. representatives to obtain grant money. Would look into grants other departments receive, such as one Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department recently used to hire more officers.

4. What is your philosophy for the public release of information regarding all incidents, crimes, investigations and accidents? How and when should information be released and what internal setup would you have to make sure the public is aware of all crime and safety issues?

Believes in transparency. Without that, there is doubt, criticism and mistrust. Is a staunch believer in public record laws. The only time information wouldn’t be released is if the investigation were pending and releasing information would damage the investigation.

5. How do you define integrity as it relates to holding a public office?

“Integrity to me means honesty, ethics, morality and to do the best you can do for the people who have put their trust in you to work for them in that office.” Includes protecting taxpayers from wasteful spending, and protecting the community and serving the community. Integrity means putting public service first, not self-interest or special interests.

6. What is the top public safety issue in Johnson County, and what would you do as sheriff do to address it?

Narcotics and drug abuse, which are a factor in a lot of the crimes committed. Buying and selling drugs affects so many people. As sheriff, he would go after the distributors and the dealers as first priority. Local judges are starting programs at the jail for drug abusers and using commissary money to start a similar juvenile program would be a solid next step. Will use federal and state grants and other sources of income anytime possible.

7. If you could make one change — and one change only — from the current sheriff's administration, what would it be?

Would change the way the jail is operated and make changes with commissary. Thinks security in the jail is lax. Thinks there needs to be more training for jail officers and more video in different areas of the jail.

8. Will you allow deputies to drive marked county patrol cars on personal business inside and outside the county? Why or why not? What about unmarked cars?

Would allow marked county cars to be driven in and out of the county on personal business. Is part of deputies’ compensation; and even though they are off duty, it deters crime. People see that car and don’t commit the crime. Would feel same way about unmarked cars. That still is a police officer, who has taken an oath, and if he sees a crime being committed, he will deal with that.

9. What type of sheriff's office vehicle would you drive as sheriff? Would you use it as a take home vehicle or not? How often would you replace your vehicle?

Would probably drive whatever is in the current fleet. Would replace the vehicle when maintenance on it became more costly than was logical to fix. Would use his vehicle as a take-home vehicle, just like deputies would.

10. Will you allow deputies to work second jobs or at security for private firms when off duty? Will they be allowed to wear sheriff's office uniforms and use county equipment such as cruisers and guns? Should the firms reimburse the county for use of the vehicles? Do you have such a job now, and will you continue it if you are elected?

Will allow that, as long as the corporation they work for supplies the sheriff’s department with indemnification and a reasonable amount of liability insurance so that the county is protected from lawsuits. Will review each part-time work request to make sure the county is protected. If deputies want to work part time, they put their lives on the line for us, so there aren’t any problems with that. Whether a company should reimburse the county depends on what the job is. If the deputies drive there and park their cars and their presence is what is needed, then reimbursement would not be required. But if the deputy uses the vehicle and is adding on mileage and using gasoline, then more study would be needed. He is retired and has no job right now.

11. The current sheriff has built up a reserve of more than $600,000 in the commissary fund but said he wanted to keep that money so it could be used for expenses related to a future jail expansion. County officials had discussed asking the sheriff to use some of that money to fund his budget. How will you spend profits from the jail commissary fund? Would you be willing to fund part of the jail or sheriff's office budget with the money in the commissary fund? Will you make public the receipts, expenditures and how profits are spent?

Would hire more correctional officers at the jail with that money to protect the other jail officers from injury. Could also use that money for supplies and equipment at the jail. Would make that information public. Believes it is public under the law. If elected, would request the state board of accounts do an audit on the commissary fund and the sheriff’s office so the new administration starts with a clean checkbook, not because he believes something is wrong.

12. Should the jail house Indiana Department of Correction prisoners? Why or why not?

Should not, unless there is an absolute emergency and the state requests it. The amount of money the state pays per inmate is not the same as the budget. Costs about $60 to house them, and the county gets $35 to $45 back. That is not fiscally responsible. Doesn’t want to open up a hotel. Wants to reduce the population so the county doesn’t need an expansion of the jail.

13. How will you ensure that, if elected sheriff, the campaign contributions you have accepted will not affect your ability to objectively enforce the laws of the State of Indiana?

Hasn’t accepted any campaign contributions from anyone that would affect abilities to enforce the laws.

14. What will you do to avoid conflicts of interest? What conflicts of interest would you have, if elected? Do any of your relatives or friends work for the sheriff's office? Would you ever hire a relative to work at the jail or for the sheriff's office? Why or why not?

Doesn’t foresee any conflicts of interest. Can’t think of any. No relatives work for the sheriff’s office. There will be no nepotism, if elected.

15. Will you discipline officers found breaking traffic or criminal laws? Will they be charged like everyone else? What would you do if an employee or deputy was suspected of criminal behavior? Who would investigate? What information would you share with the public?

Would discipline them. If needed, would call Indiana State Police to have them investigate. Would be a conflict of interest if the investigation were done in-house. Transparency is best in order to keep the public’s trust. Would not release anything during investigation that would hurt case or embarrass either party. A person is considered innocent until proved guilty. Doesn’t want to embarrass the person or give the appearance something was done until the department knows more about it. Public would be made aware at some point of the investigation and would get information when it was done.

16. When should a sheriff's deputy be fired?

Are a lot of reasons. If a deputy commits a crime, that is a violation of his oath. He is just like any other regular citizen. A deputy is not above the law and should be held accountable. Does not get a free pass. Would use merit board process and court system.

17. Under what circumstances would you ask the state police to investigate crimes instead of the sheriff's office?

If, for example, a family member of an employee was the victim of a violent crime like rape or murder, he would ask state police to assist in the investigation if it appeared it would be too personal for the department to investigate. Emotions could cloud an investigation, otherwise.

18. What services could the jail or sheriff's office hire a private company to do to save money?

Would look at meals, commissary, security, and there are numerous jails in Marion County that are contracted to a private company. Would have to contact numerous vendors to see if they could provide the same service for less money. Without a specific expense in mind, such as jail food, is hard to say what would be done without checking into it and seeing what could be changed.

19. Should every sheriff's vehicle be equipped with video cameras? Why or why not?

Yes, every vehicle should have cameras for the protection of the people and deputies against false allegations and false charges.

20. Should deputies have ticket or stop quotas? For example, a quota might be that a deputy must make five stops or issue five tickets a day. Why or why not?

No, deputies should not have quotas. Quota systems are illegal.

21. White River Township is where most of the sheriff's office’s constituents live. Since a merger between White River Township and Greenwood won't be happening in the near future, how do you propose the sheriff's office patrol that area? Should more deputies be added to patrol there? How would that be paid for?

Yes, more deputies should be patrolling there. If elected sheriff, building the reserve division of the sheriff’s office would be a priority. Marion County had one of finest reserve divisions. Would utilize reserve deputies as road patrol officers to assist in investigations and numerous other traffic duties. Will also look at the federal money and state money, such as grants, and will try to bring that tax money back to the county to hire officers.

22. When inmates are incarcerated in the Johnson County jail, their medical needs become the responsibility of county taxpayers. What would you do to keep those costs under control?

The jail has to have proper staff in the medical office for minor illnesses and complaints of illness. It is cheaper and would save money from bringing people to the hospital and lawsuits for negligence in the jail. Hundreds of thousands has been paid out for negligence. It is morally right and best to take care of inmates in the beginning to save money from lawsuits being filed later and rushing people to and from the hospital.

23. Will you continue the courthouse security program started by current Sheriff Terry McLaughlin? Why or why not?

Yes, will keep the security program. Thinks it is important. County needs to protect judges, workers and the public going in and out of the courthouse.

24. The sheriff's office has more than 3,000 active warrants. As sheriff, how would you reduce this number? Would you take deputies off the street to serve warrants? Which warrants would you serve first?

Would use reserve officers and other officers available who wanted to work overtime or during their day off. Warrants served first would be most serious, criminal warrants. Sheriff’s office has two employees who serve civil papers.

25. What specific policies and procedures at the jail and sheriff’s office need to be reviewed or changed? What changes do you believe need to be made?

Not being an employee of the sheriff’s office or jail, he would need to wait until elected sheriff. Would review policies to see if any need to be changed and how.

26. Should the sheriff be paid more? How much should the sheriff be paid? What other benefits should the position receive?

Doesn’t think position should be paid more. Is not running for sheriff because of money. Is running because he loves public service. Is running for sheriff for the challenge of finding answers to reducing the inmates at the jail and other problems.

27. Would you change the current administration of the sheriff's office? Who would you appoint to the positions of chief deputy, investigations commander and road officer commander? What qualifications should those people have?

Administration will change if elected. Bipartisan campaign is key. If elected, there will be a bipartisan administration. Unfortunately, there are politics in the sheriff’s office, but that happens everywhere. Hopes to not have politics by having a bipartisan administration. People selected for those roles will be qualified, able to handle assigned duties and ranks. Hasn’t made any decisions of who would be in what positions. If elected, he would have to talk with people in the department and see if they would be interested in working with him.

28. Do you believe a jail expansion is needed? Why or why not? What type and size of expansion is necessary? How would you propose it be paid for?

Doesn’t believe an expansion is needed at this time. Doesn’t feel that every avenue or option has been explored. Thinks county can reduce the population in the jail or at least try. County has to try before officials know whether it can or can’t be done. Is tired of listening to threats that the Indiana Civil Liberties Union will come and get us. Doesn’t like that doom and gloom. He is a positive person. Thinks there are ways to reduce the population without an expansion.

29. How else will you reduce overcrowding at the jail?

Would meet with judges and prosecutor to discuss his idea to have a jail commissioner who would review arrests as they come in. Through a system of checks and balances, the ones that are not violent or a flight risk could be released on their own recognizance, similar to what is done in Marion County. If person is arrested on a nonviolent misdemeanor, they have a house, job and kids, they aren’t likely to flee the area. If someone is arrested for public intoxication, they would be released when their blood alcohol level was low enough. If someone was arrested for shoplifting, they wouldn’t be kept in jail but would be given a summons to go to court.

30. What is your leadership and management philosophy? How would you incorporate that as sheriff? How would you be involved in the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office and jail?

Look at the merits of employees. Wouldn’t look at gender and politics. If they do their job and are dedicated to it, that is what would be considered for pay raises and promotions. New deputies will come from civil or reserve deputies, who have already contributed to the county and sheriff’s office. Would be there every day. Is a hands-on guy. Would not just be involved in administration. Would be involved in each division through updates, keeping contact and knowing what is going on in each division.

31. How would you manage and supervise undercover officers?

Undercover officers won’t just be working narcotics cases. Officers will periodically go to the different parks looking for pedophiles and sexual situations and will stop that right away. When they are handling narcotics cases, any narcotics is confiscated and money used in drug buys will be tracked. Narcotics officers will submit to drug tests as well. If an investigator is having problem or getting in too deep and feels he is about to break the law, arrangements will be made to get them out of that position tactfully and replace them with someone else to keep the investigation going. Supervision and control are important. Officials can’t just let them off the chain to run. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

32. Informants can be people charged with or convicted of crimes who can help investigators solve crimes. Do you favor the use of paid informants? Why or why not and under what circumstances? What about unpaid informants?

Doesn’t agree and is not in favor of paid informants. Unpaid informants is a gray area. An informant should be someone who is there for the right reasons. If they are facing a criminal charge, police need to very careful and question why he is actually giving them information. Informants can’t be giving information for some kind of deal in their case. Police should consider the regular citizen who wants to make a report. That is the kind of informant to have. Wants officers to use community policing, where police gain people’s trust by talking with the people and kids and developing a great rapport with the community.

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