Two past incidents have been brought to the forefront in the race for Butler County Sheriff.
In a townhall meeting and through other venues, candidate Carl Enterkin has been addressing a death that occurred at the Butler County Jail in 2007 and a deputy-related shooting in 2009.
"The culture of every agency flows from the management at the top," Enterkin said. "Every top manager always establishes the protocol and things to be done according to the statutes and Constitution. Given that, my observations as a professional law enforcement officer, having 37 years experience, is that there exists [an atmosphere] within the Butler County Sheriff's Office that is contrary to the Constitution of the State of Kansas and to the federal Constitution."
That claim about the influence of top manager causes questions for some in its relevance to this election.
"I read all this about Enterkin and his education and experience," said former Sheriff Craig Murphy. "One thing that does puzzle me is for a man with all this education he has not figured out who the candidates are. He is running against Kelly, not me. Why is he bringing up these things?"
Enterkin did feel they were relevant.
Sheriff Kelly Herzet, who is running against Enterkin, was sergeant of detectives during the death at the jail. Because of that role, Herzet was responsible for investigating the death for the sheriff's department, which he did along with a KBI agent.
He also was with the department at the time of the shooting and was at the scene.
"People's civil rights, as especially noted in these two well-documented cases have been severely abused," Enterkin said. "That is evident to me. I believe this is the tip of the ice berg of the incidences we should be uncovering so that we can have a fair look at what is going on within the agency to determine if the agency possesses a culture that contravenes the Constitution."
He also believes there is a "good ol' boy" system in the sheriff's office, and that Herzet had a responsibility to do something about these two incidents.
"The agency has evolved into an agency that instead of protecting the Constitutional rights of all citizens, it seeks to protect itself from erroneous or negligent behavior by some of its officers and staff," Enterkin said.
He said the office was not transparent and did not have a full investigation by outside agencies in the two cases.
"I am running the sheriff's office with integrity, credibility and openness," Herzet said. "Since I have been sheriff for 14 months, I have only tried to do that."
Herzet also said he has tried to be more accessible to the public and has instituted or reinstated programs such as OffenderWatch, Land Tracker, neighborhood watch and D.A.R.E.
Page 2 of 4 - "It's all about the people in Butler County," he said.
As for the two incidents that have been the focus of Enterkin's campaign, Herzet does not feel they are significant issues for this election.
"I think it is unfortunate my opponent in the Butler County Sheriff's primary has chosen to continuously throw out inaccurate innuendoes, partial truths and outright false allegations, this time by exploiting the regrettable death of this young woman for his own political gain and sensationalism," Herzet wrote in a letter to the editor.
He said he has good deputies who are well-trained, but "it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when something happens."
"The jail incident was a very sad, tragic event," he said.
Herzet, who was not appointed as undersheriff until 2009, said he did all of the interviews in the jail death, and a KBI agent was sitting right beside him through it all.
"I feel if the KBI thought I was doing something wrong they would have said 'stop right now,'" he said. "They are an assisting agency."
He also pointed out that he was not the sheriff at that time and there has only been the one death since the jail opened in 2003.
"If Carl Enterkin was not running, would he give a darn to what happened?" he asked.
Enterkin said there should have been an investigation to see if any policies or procedures were violated.
"The KBI agent there was just window dressing," he said. "As far as I can tell, the other guy never filed a report or asked any questions."
"Kelly was simply in both cases doing exactly what he was supposed to do – following the sheriff's direction," Murphy, who was sheriff at the time, said of the incidents.
He said he did not understand why Enterkin didn't seem to understand the sheriff has the final say.
"I was sheriff and anything Kelly was doing or did was at my direction," he reiterated. "I would rather we talked about the truth of the matter. I support Kelly. Trying to discredit Kelly for something he had no control over – that is wrong. Let's talk about Kelly; Kelly's the one running for sheriff."
Enterkin said Herzet should have had knowledge of what was going on.
"In small agencies like this, every detective knows what's up with all cases, just from being so close to each other and the fact that their caseload is not excessive," Enterkin said about the shooting. "He should have been up there telling his boss, Craig Murphy, 'This is a bad case. He did nothing for us to arrest him by and still we took him into custody after we shot him.'"
Page 3 of 4 - Enterkin said his goal was to establish an office that is transparent.
In addition to these two instances, he said there were two U.S. code violations in 1983 regarding violation of civil rights, and he has heard of other incidences.
"I do think this is the tip of the iceberg," Enterkin said. "We're getting anecdotal stuff."
He said he had not had time to run complete investigations into everything yet.
"There is a situation there and everybody I talk to when campaigning believes there is a good ol' boy system that is protecting itself," Enterkin said. "My critique is mainly focused on the management of the agency."
Kelly stated in his letter that: "The Butler County Sheriff's Office maintains a high standard of performance and integrity and I am extremely proud of the men and women who serve Butler County. When an occasional problem arises, the problem is addressed and necessary action taken. Since December 2009 when I was appointed undersheriff and placed in charge of overseeing the day-to-day operations, the jail has safely housed 10,282 prisoners from 30 agencies from surrounding counties, the state of Kansas, the U.S. Marshal Service and the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
In addition, following the escape from the Winfield Correctional Facility, Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts visited all of the facilities in the state to inspect them. Butler County is one of three jails approved to continue housing inmates from state agencies.
One other issue that has been brought up in this election race is that of cost of living adjustment raises.
Herzet, who has more than 20 years experience in law enforcement beginning as a reserve officer, then moving up to deputy, detective, detective sergeant, undersheriff and sheriff, was offered a 5 percent COLA, while his employees were given a 1 percent COLA.
"I myself opted out of the 5 percent and took 1 percent," he said. "If my employees get 1 percent, I deserve 1 percent.
"I continue to run the office with integrity, credibility and compassion," Herzet continued, adding that he is looking into expanding the Reserve Program, creating a drug task force and continues to work with other agencies in the county. "It's all about communication. It's all about working together as one big team in Butler County. I lead by example. I'm out in the field visiting with deputies, visiting with people in the county."
He also serves on the boards of Flinthills Services and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
"I think being sheriff, the sheriff needs to be involved in the county he serves," Herzet said. "I am going to run a positive platform and campaign. It is unfortunate my opponent continues to throw this out. My leadership role in the last 14 months has stood on its own merit."
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