Sheriff Mehr defends financial decisions as trial continues

JACKSON, Tenn. — Day two of the trial between the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and the County government started with Sheriff John Mehr taking the stand and defending his financial decisions.

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“I knew I had to take care of the people that I work for, and I work for them,” Mehr said. “And I have to serve them, and I have to serve the people of Madison County.”

Sheriff Mehr took center stage Tuesday morning, starting off by defending hires and pay roll decisions he made when assuming the role of sheriff.

Much of Wednesday morning was dedicated to discussing how Mehr attempted to change the pay for correctional officers in Madison County.

Mehr says he reduced pay for incoming correctional officers because he wanted deputies to be paid more, and if applicants didn’t meet certain qualifications, he would have them as correctional officers in the jail.

“They would come in right out of high school — which, they cannot go to the academy,” Mehr said.

The county took aim at his policies, arguing that the sheriff’s decision affected his ability to recruit — not the county’s funding decisions.

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“You don’t think they may look at that and say ‘I don’t want to work in the jail, I want to work the roads? But Sheriff John Mehr is going to make me work the jail before he’ll send me those certifications,'” attorney Geoffrey Lindley said.

“I just, I feel that that is an important factor in training and getting them into the department,” Mehr said.

The two sides also discussed the budget proposals timeline, and whether or not Mehr did enough to avoid the lawsuit.

“He says ‘I had to submit a conforming budget for 19-20.’ Well. What did he do in 2021 when he and the budget committee couldn’t agree? Well, did he submit a conforming budget? No!” Lindley said.

Finally, the county brought up the sheriff department’s performance, arguing that the department has been successful enough that the office is clearly not being hampered by a supposed lack of funds.

“Your crime clearance rate is through the roof at 60%, right? In your deposition, you told me national average was around 35%, right?” Lindley said.

The sheriff remained adamant that the pay raises are needed to keep it going.

The trial will resume Wednesday at 9 a.m.

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