Grand Traverse Co. Chairman Dismisses Jail Assessment, Accountability Discussion

Earlier this week, 9&10 News told you about a new report that assessed the medical capacity at the Grand Traverse County jail.

In recent years, county taxpayers have paid hundreds of thousands to address health concerns at the facility, including inmate suicides and the alleged wrongdoings of former jail administrator Todd Ritter.

Wednesday, commissioners Betsy Coffia and Bryce Hundley wanted to discuss the jail assessment with the sheriff at their public meeting.

But the conversation didn’t get very far, with chairman Rob Hentschel dismissing the topic before questions could be answered.

“We felt duty-bound to ask the sheriff to come in, talk to commissioners, to address these concerns…about systemic gaps,” said Coffia during the morning meeting. “We hope to learn what changes in policy the sheriff has made or plans to make basically to ensure that such an abuse in power never happens again.”

Coffia asked for this item to be placed on the agenda ahead of county budget talks this fall. Commissioner Gordie LaPointe says what was on Wednesday’s agenda was misleading and vague. Chairman Hentschel said he didn’t want to zero in on the Ritter situation.

“This isn’t about the budget as I was led to believe on the agenda item, this is about a complete discussion on the Captain Ritter situation,” said LaPointe during the meeting. “In my mind, this is nothing but two months before the election… a well-rehearsed plan by two commissioners.”

Chairman Hentschel said without any motions on the table, he had to move on from this topic.

“I questioned why the commissioners thinks it’s necessary to drag this into a public forum,” he said. “They obviously want to drag out all the failures of any administration that make the sheriff look bad because he has an opponent in the election.”

Commissioner Coffia said during the meeting that she didn’t want to focus solely on allegations against Ritter.

Further, Hundley said it’s the board’s job to ask questions and conduct oversight.

“In order to be able to understand those budget questions, you have to kind of dig deeper into what the systems are…and so, you know, we felt like we had to bring the questions out in a public forum, which is what we did,” said Hundley.

In a phone call, commissoiner LaPointe told us he’s open to inviting the sheriff back to answer questions about the report during a public meeting.  He said Wednesday’s presentation was “staged” and all about embarrassing the sheriff.

To read the jail report, click here.