More MS news articles for July 2002

Editorial: Sheriff Space must go

Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Savannah Morning News

THERE WAS a time when suspended Effingham County Sheriff Jay Space could resign his elected post and leave with his dignity intact. Those days are almost gone.

Last week, the sheriff was arrested on five felony drug charges and, for a short time, was a prisoner in his own jail. Then prosecutors filed a 17-page petition in Effingham County Superior Court to have him removed by a judge.

The document that Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Martin submitted was especially damning. In addition to alleging that the sheriff illegally bought more than 7,400 pills that are only available through a physician's prescription, the petition said Effingham's top lawman rarely showed up for work, wrecked two county cars and behaved inappropriately in public and in court.

"Sheriff Space suffers from periods of irrational and illogical behavior and is not able to function in a competent manner," Mr. Martin bluntly states in the petition. "These periods are exacerbated by Sheriff Space's failure to adhere to physicians orders as directed."

The sheriff is a sick man. Doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis a year ago. And while that disease is terrible enough, it appears that he may have a drug problem as well.

Politican consultant David Simons, who is speaking for the sheriff at this point, introduced a new angle to this sad saga. He suggested last week that his client is being sandbagged by Rick Dailey, a former major in the sheriff's department who now works for Mr. Martin. "This is basically a situation of a former trusted employee turning his back on his employer," Mr. Simons said.

That might be plausible if the case against the sheriff were a matter of one man's word against another. That doesn't seem to be the case. Earlier this summer, two other Georgia sheriffs and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker investigated the sheriff's behavior and recommended that Gov. Roy Barnes suspend him for 60 days. The governor did exactly that on June 18.

There is a time to act responsibly for the sake of the public's good, and there is a time for compassion for a man who's ill.

The sheriff must go. Effingham County residents deserve a sheriff who is able to protect and preserve them. The man who still wears the star there can do neither.

If he won't take the honorable course and resign for the good of the county, then prosecutors have no choice but to ask a judge to force him to go.

Copyright 2002 Savannah Morning News