The jail board reached consensus Monday (Oct. 2) to try running the jail without an administrator for the rest of the fiscal year on a trial basis. The board also accepted the Oct. 31 resignation of Administrator Bryan Brandenburg.
Instead of having an administrator over the adult and juvenile facilities at the four-county Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility, the adult facility is promoting Lt. Dan Lindhorst to jail commander — a typical leadership position in other jails — and a sheriff will be designated to handle issues that arise and will directly report to the jail board.
The juvenile facility already has a director, Jeff Justesen, who will report to a designated county juvenile director, who will also then report to the jail board. Sheriffs and juvenile directors both share the same legal responsibility under Oregon law for the running of adult and juvenile facilities, respectively.
The board asked that an interim policy laying out the new organizational structure be brought back to the board at its Oct. 18 meeting for a vote.
Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey will be the designated sheriff and Molly Rogers, the Wasco County juvenile director, will be the designated juvenile director.
While the sheriffs have said they do not want any extra compensation for the oversight role, which they estimate will take up to 10 hours per week, Rogers said the juvenile directors do plan to ask their counties to seek reimbursement from the regional jail to pay for a stipend for the designated juvenile director.
Brandenburg told the board over the summer he would be leaving the job and returning to Alaska to be with his family. The board tried to find a replacement by posting the job on a popular job-seeking site, but the man they offered the job to turned them down.
Thoughts then turned to running the jail without an administrator.
Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill said the four sheriffs and four juvenile directors met and agreed to try this format for running the jail for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
They would give it at least a six-month trial, and if it wasn’t working out, they would recommend the board hire an administrator.
Brandenburg said of the new proposal, “I think we’re all very optimistic this is going to work.”
He said after the meeting he wasn’t upset to see his position go unfilled. He said he’s brought down recidivism, boosted staff morale, lowered the mentally ill jail population and brought in programming for inmates like anger management and substance abuse courses.
“I think it’s a good idea. I think NORCOR has matured to a point where this strategy is just fine,” and they don’t need the level of oversight they’ve had in the past, Brandenburg said.
Brandenburg will be leaving the facility Oct. 31, but will be kept on for two months to work remotely from Alaska to help settle contracts and provide training. He will be paid salary only, without health insurance benefits.
The regional jail’s bylaws require it be run by an administrator. The board will have an interim policy allowing the new management structure to be in place.
The sheriffs and juvenile directors envisioned an organizational flow chart that had the juvenile facility director, Justesen, and Lindhorst be co-equals, jointly overseeing shared functions, like IT and maintenance.
Brandenburg said that wouldn’t work, and one person needed to be in charge. He said the current system wasn’t broken. “They need to not report to more than one supervisor.”
Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt said it would largely remain status quo, and if there were issues, Lindhorst and Justesen would work it out, and if that didn’t work, it would elevate to the designated sheriff and juvenile director.
With Lindhorst promoted, a sergeant will be promoted to lieutenant, and an officer promoted to sergeant. A new corrections officer would be hired to fill the vacated officer spot.
The juvenile directors want to hire a program manager, saying if programming is offered, they can bring in more revenue with more youth sent to the facility.
A better financial picture of what the new organizational chart will look like will be presented at the Oct. 18 meeting.