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Give Homer a chance to show his capabilities

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opinion Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

As Hubbard County Sheriff Gary Mills gets ready to retire, commissioners are now faced with the task of finding his replacement.

Mills has been grooming Chief Deputy Frank Homer as his successor and suggested appointing him in the resignation letter he sent the board earlier this month.

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It's no secret the board has become disenchanted with Mills. The jail situation is making taxpayers increasingly angry; commissioners are hearing from them.

Mills and his department were behind the push to build the $10 million facility. Their interests are now viewed as self-serving - they got a brand new law enforcement center out of the deal. Taxpayers feel the jail was forced upon them, bolstered by overly rosy projections of receiving inmates from a wide periphery around Hubbard County that never materialized.

There have been other issues over the years such as the stipend Mills took for jail meals, ultimately found to be without legal basis.

Citizens and courthouse employees wonder why a deputy facing sexual assault allegations was allowed to remain on paid leave six months before resigning earlier this month. Although the deputy has not been charged with a crime, his conduct might have been grounds for internal disciplinary measures.

In a recent overtime report, six officers were assigned to a local fishing derby, racking up 38 hours of overtime. It's debatable that this show of force was necessary at the family-friendly, alcohol-free event. It seems their presence was more a matter of public relations than public safety.

Some have suggested finding Mills' replacement from outside the department, and there are good arguments the department needs a change in leadership. At times it has been less than transparent, and getting accurate information quickly has been a problem for the media. That should concern citizens because they deserve to know what the department, one of the largest spenders of taxpayer money, is doing.

There are also arguments to the fact that Homer is a capable administrator who understands the budgeting process and his department.

Homer deserves the chance to prove he is his own man, not Mill's handpicked successor. Right now the county doesn't have the time or money to embark on a lengthy job search.

But commissioners should hold Homer to a high standard of conduct, realizing that while he can't fix the past, he shouldn't repeat any of the mistakes, either.

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