GOP gets taxpayer-funded security at party meetings

When Shenandoah County Republicans gathered last week at their usual meeting place in the general district courthouse, they received free building security that comes with the use of the courthouse during and after normal work hours.

The arrangement requires the Sheriff’s Office to adjust the work schedules of bailiffs, at least one of whom remains in the courthouse while the party conducts its meetings long after the courtrooms, clerks of court and commonwealth’s attorney offices have normally closed.

The county receives no reimbursement for the bailiff’s pay. Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said the provision of an after-hours bailiff is a standard practice whenever the county’s two working courthouses remain open into the evening.

Carter said his role is to make sure the courthouses have security whenever they are open. He said other groups have held evening meetings in the general district courthouse. He cited juvenile court programs and a voter recount as examples of other activities where a bailiff has been present after normal working hours.

Carter said requests for after-hours courthouse security come to him through the chief bailiff and after one of the judges has scheduled space in the building.

Carter, a Republican, said any organization using the courthouse will receive after-hours security.

“Regardless of how the courtroom is used, whether it’s to hold a juvenile court program or some local group, the approval process is not with this office,” Carter added. “This office is responsible for the security of the building.”

Carter added that it wasn’t up to him to decide whether the county should be reimbursed for the bailiffs’ time.

“If the county wanted to come up with some kind of reimbursement policy, that’s a county decision,” Carter said.

County Administrator Mary Beth Price was out of the office and unavailable for comment on Thursday.

The county Republicans met most recently in the courthouse last week. Local Democrats also gathered a few days ago in their regular meeting place, the county government building across the parking lot from the general district courthouse.

Tony Dorrell, the Democrats’ committee chairman, said the county government building is not covered by bailiffs and has no designated security force. The only obvious security measure is the locked doors leading to fire and rescue headquarters on the north side of the building, Dorrell said.

“There’s some security in that sense, but it’s not provided by the Sheriff’s Office,” Dorrell said.

Dorrell said he was pleased with the county government building as a meeting place and had “no personal concerns” about use or non-use of bailiffs by either party.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Dorrell said. “I never thought much about it.”

Chad Logan, who is running for commonwealth’s attorney and served as the Shenandoah County Republican chairman until recently, said the party meets in full body four times a year. Meetings typically run from 7 p.m. until 8 or 8:30 p.m.

“During my tenure, we were never asked to pay reimbursement,” Logan said, adding that he was sure the party “would be happy” to do so if the county asked.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com