Originally created 09/23/04

Jail administrator says he'll stay after change



AIKEN - Aiken County Detention Center Administrator John Rowley, whose change in management style resulted in complaints from some long-time jail employees, said Wednesday he will stay on the job as oversight switches to Sheriff Mike Hunt's office.

Sheriff Hunt, meanwhile, said he hasn't decided yet whether Mr. Rowley will become a division head of the jail after the change, scheduled for Nov. 1.

The two met Wednesday morning, the day after county council members tentatively agreed to a contract that would switch control of the jail from County Administrator Clay Killian to Sheriff Hunt.

Mr. Rowley said afterward he was "looking forward to the transition in an optimistic way."

"It's my understanding that I will remain at the jail and basically instead of working for the county administrator I will be working for the sheriff," Mr. Rowley said. He said he didn't expect any sweeping changes in direction at the jail.

Sheriff Hunt said he will hold meetings with employees, many of whom have complained to county council members about working conditions since the new direct supervision facility on Wire Road opened in 2002.

"The only difference I see will be that the county detention center will become a division of the sheriff's office, with its own staff," he said.

The sheriff said all his division heads are captains and oversee personnel and budgetary matters of their divisions. But he would not say whether Mr. Rowley will be named a captain for the sheriff's department. Sheriff Hunt said "we plan on offering everyone out there a position."

Mark Gibson, the former chairman of the jail's citizens advisory committee, resigned Tuesday night in protest over the switch in oversight.

Mr. Gibson said Wednesday that many long-time jail employees chafed at Mr. Rowley's management style and the changes he instituted. But Mr. Gibson also noted that except for its high turnover, the jail got good marks in a recent audit from the National Association of Correctional Institutions.

"When Mr. Rowley came in, it was a lot of change for those people, and he ended up with a lot of disciplinary issues. There were a lot of complaints. But all of the reports I've been privy to, none have indicated any gaping holes or discrepancies in how the jail was run," Mr. Gibson said.

He theorized that county council members were weary of dealing with complaints from employees. On Tuesday, Councilman Willar Hightower said his "phone has been hot" the past few years with complaints.

Said Mr. Gibson: "Those won't come to them anymore - they'll come to the sheriff. They won't have to deal with it."

Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or stephen.gurr@augustachronicle.com