WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) — For years, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has had to seek approval for spending from the county. Sheriff Alfonzo Williams abided by this protocol in hopes of maintaining a healthy relationship with the county. During Tuesday’s commission meeting, Williams alerted the Board of Commissioners he would sue the county if they would not allow him to take over control of his office’s $6.6 million budget. Commissioners voted to approve this request.
“The law requires the county commission to simply set the sheriff, tax commissioner, probate judge and the clerk of superior court a reasonable budget to do their constitutional duties,” Sheriff Alfonzo Williams explains. “They have done that. But, a majority was under control of the county manager. So, we had very little control over our budget over the last four and a half years.”
During Williams’ four and a half years as sheriff, he says he has run into several issues with County Manager Merv Waldrop.
“We have a county manager who does not have the best interest of the sheriff’s office at heart.”
Waldrop was not able to provide comment to NewsChannel 6 for this story Wednesday.
BCSO was recently forced to shut down its indoor firing range, which was used to train employees. Deputies have since been training in a facility owned by Georgia Power. Williams says this is not a cost effective solution and has asked Waldrop for funding to pay for a new training facility.
“We have to have a place to train, not only for firearms but for other non-lethal uses of force. He’d say, ‘Go into a classroom.’ Well, you can’t teach firearms in a classroom where you don’t have clearance space. You can’t be pointing guns at one another.”
For the past two years, the sheriff’s office has relied on grant funding to retain four deputies. Georgia Power awarded BCSO a $500,000 grant, which runs out at the end of 2021. Williams says he went to Waldrop for funding to continue paying those deputies but was unsuccessful.
“The county has the statutory responsibility to provide a reasonable budget for the sheriff to do his job. It’s not the job of the private sector do it. We have brought in several million dollars in grant funding in the four and a half years I’ve been in office. We’ve brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars from private friends and associates who have invested in this agency. It’s time for the county to step up and do their part. Burke County is able to do it. They’re financially able to do it. But we have a county manager who’s disinterested.”
County Attorney Barry Fleming says Waldrop and the county have continued to support Williams and his office.
“The sheriff has received a 114 percent increase in his budget over the time he’s been there sine he took office,” Fleming says. “I think most sheriffs would be very pleased with that significant amount of funding increase.”
With control over his office’s budget, Williams is confident he will find a new training facility and retain the four deputies. He plans to form a team within the department to handle the budget. However, his relationship with the county remains tense.
“Four and a half years of history of cooperating and working together has proven fruitless,” Williams says. “We can’t expect there be any difference going forward.”