CROWN POINT — In a rebuke of the Lake County Commissioners over the recent renewal of an electronic monitoring contract, Sheriff Oscar Martinez referenced three escapes that he says happened under the watch of the company that was awarded the contract.
In each of the instances, which occurred between April 2019 and September 2019, Martinez said the escaped offenders who were on court-supervised release committed serious crimes. The discord between the sheriff's office and the monitoring company has been longstanding.
In May 2019, Martinez barred the monitor ankle bracelet company, ICU Monitoring Inc., and its employees from entering Lake County Jail after two escapes in which the detainees were on court-supervised release and wearing GPS ankle bracelets monitored by the Merrillville-based company.
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In the case of Jarod D. Johnson, of Gary, a detainee charged with attempted murder, ICU lost contact with Johnson's ankle bracelet at 7:16 a.m. April 12, 2019, but did not file an escape report with the Sheriff's Department until 4:41 p.m. that day, Martinez said. At 6:22 p.m., ICU employees contacted the Sheriff's Department and said the escape report on Johnson was withdrawn.
The night of April 14, Johnson and two of his family members allegedly abducted a woman as she walked along Ridge Road, shot her behind an abandoned Gary home and left her for dead, police reports said.
On April 15, Johnson was arrested on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder of a state witness. Martinez said no alert or escape report was filed after the April 12 escape report for Johnson was withdrawn.
A second escape happened later the same month in April 2019, concerning Carl Marquis Smith, of County Club Hills, Illinois, who had been previously charged with robbery resulting in injury.
On April 24, Smith was arrested by police in Scottsboro, Alabama, after leading an alleged high-speed chase that ended in a crash resulting in three people being sent to the hospital. One of the injured had to be airlifted for immediate medical care, police records said.
Smith was charged in Alabama for assault, operating while intoxicated, felony fleeing and reckless endangerment, according to the Scottsboro Police Department.
At 9:50 a.m. April 26, ICU contacted Lake County Jail Warden Michael Zenk that Smith had been put on “escape status” at 8:10 a.m. that day, Martinez said.
Martinez said before that call, no alert or escape report for Smith had been reported; however, it's believed Smith traveled out of Indiana on April 24 or April 25.
Another incident occurred Sept. 18, 2019, when authorities were alerted that William Galloway, who was on court-supervised release for several charges including murder, was a suspect in a shooting around 2 a.m. that day at 2548 Pierce St. in Gary. ICU Monitoring received an alert that Galloway left his home at 1:45 a.m. and returned at 2:34 a.m. Sept. 18, 2019, Martinez said.
Martinez said there were no records of the Lake County sheriff's authorities being alerted of Galloway's movements by the company. Upon investigation, Gary police identified Galloway as the prime suspect in a robbery of a man and the shooting of a woman on Pierce Street.
During this time, Galloway also allegedly fired about 10 rounds through a window into a home occupied by another woman and a 6-year-old child, court records said. Galloway fled the scene and was later arrested by police, where he was booked on additional charges.
Debate on decision
A unanimous decision by the Lake County Commissioners was made Wednesday to retain the county’s contractor for electronic monitoring of pretrial detainees for another two years.
Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay said following the incidents, meetings were held among judicial officers and the issues within the company were addressed.
"Certain issues were remedied to the satisfaction of judicial officers, or they wouldn't have been on board with the renewal," Repay said. "A formal notice was sent regarding the lack of adherence to the contract and the company answered that complaint."
Martinez said the process to renew the contract lacked transparency.
“I find it hard to believe a two-year contract, involving millions of taxpayer dollars, could get awarded to ICU Monitoring before copies of the contract being voted on was available for review by my staff, other county stakeholders, and members of the public — but that’s exactly what the commissioners did on Wednesday," Martinez said. "Simply put, the way the contract was awarded just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
In addition to operational issues relating to ICU’s past performance, cost was also mentioned as approximately $1 million was paid through the sheriff’s office budget in 2020. Martinez said he submitted a cost comparison between ICU Monitoring, Inc. and Sentinel Offender Services, LLC. According to the documents, Sentinel's bid was half the cost of ICU's.
On Wednesday, Matt Fech, attorney for the board of commissioners, said the decision to retain ICU was made following consultations with the county’s judges, who decide who is permitted pretrial release or who is required to remain in the county jail.
Fech said ICU was the only bidder of the four companies offering their services to Lake County to include the judge-requested wraparound services, such as psychological counseling, substance abuse counseling and similar programs, to individuals who have not been convicted of any crime as a condition of their release on electronic monitoring.
In addition, Fech said even if ICU’s bid is higher than other companies, it is a minority-owned business and entitled to a price preference under the county’s purchasing guidelines.
Martinez rebutted that “wraparound services” are not part of the electronic monitoring services paid for under the contract.
“Wraparound services are ancillary support services that are provided by the state of Indiana and other nonprofit third parties," Martinez said. "They are not part of the ‘services’ that are included in an electronic monitoring contract. Hence, any argument that ICU provides wraparound services is merely a red herring. Any monitoring company can obtain or request the same wraparound services for arrestees from the state of Indiana and other third party providers."
Martinez contended the sheriff's department should be the sole lead in the decision.
“The law in Indiana is clear," he said. "County commissioners have no jurisdiction or authority over the sheriff or the operation of the Lake County Jail.”
Last week, the Lake County Council sought and won a judge’s approval to seize control of the county’s purchasing office from the commissioners. Repay said that the board of commissioners are contemplating the next steps.
Likewise, the sheriff's office aims to meet with county officials concerning the disagreement.
“Because of my concerns over the way in which this contract was awarded, I plan to meet and confer with the judges and the county council before I consider taking any further action in this matter.”
Times staff writer Dan Carden contributed to this report.
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