The following press release was issued minutes ago by the Columbia County Democratic Committee:
On November 19, 2021, at a Public Safety Committee meeting, Matt Murell, the Republican Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, introduced a resolution to defund the Columbia County Sheriff's Office (CCSO). The resolution would slash over $250,000 from the CCSO's budget and sever the Sheriff's Emergency Management Division from the Sheriff's control and place it under the control of Chairman Murell.
Sheriff-elect Don Krapf is currently opposed to the resolution. It was just two weeks ago that the voters of Columbia County elected Krapf, the Democratic candidate, to lead the Sheriff's Department which includes oversight of the Emergency Management Division.
"This is a case of sour grapes," said Sam Hodge, Chair of the Columbia County Democrataic Committee. "Their candidate lost decisively and now, out of nowhere, they want to cut a quarter of a million dollars from the budget and take away important responsibilities from the Sheriff's control. The Republicans are playing politics with people's safety and it's not right."
Even more troubling, there was little notice provided to the public or other Supervisors of the proposed change. It was included at the end of an agenda that was distributed only briefly before the committee met. The resolution appeared to have been drafted with haste, as it was dated incorrectly and listed the wrong committee in its first paragraph.
"Creating a new department is a big decision," said Tistrya Houghtling, Minority Leader and New Lebanon Town Supervisor. "This sort of drastic change warrants more discussion and research."
The Public Safety Committee only considered the resolution for approximately 15 minutes before passing it through committee on a vote of 5-3.
The Sheriff's Emergency Management Division is currently led by David Harrison, a donor and supporter of Sheriff Bartlett. If the resolution is successful, Harrison would report to Murell, rather than Sheriff-elect Krapf.
The stated mission of the Sheriff's Emergency Management Division is to minimize personal injury, loss of life and damage to property and the environment from man-made or natural disasters through mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery; while working with local, state and federal agencies, overseeing operations of the county Emergency Operation Center, all in accordance with the Columbia County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.