While he responded to a request for further comment too late for an initial story on alleged problems with disposing of unwanted former sheriff’s department vehicles, Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini in an email told the Daily Times the estimated cost of moving and attempting to resell 62 unused department vehicles could amount to just over $380,000, far, far more than what he insists is the value of the vehicles.
The sheriff’s office currently stores the dozens of used vehicles at a local junkyard once owned by a former and now deceased department special deputy. The deputy and his family apparently long allowed the department to store the vehicles on their property free of charge. However, Donini stated Ohio law permits any storage facility to charge fees not to exceed $17 per day for each car stored.
“This would amount to $6,205 per year for each vehicle or a total of $384,710 for all 62 vehicles being stored there for one year,” Donini wrote.
Earlier this week, Donini sent the Scioto County Board of Commissioners a letter asking them to approve transferring titles for the vehicles to Michael Belford, the son of former special deputy Jess Belford. Donini stated he personally spoke with the deputy’s widow, Juanita Belford, who told the sheriff the vehicles can remain where they are, sparing the county the trouble and expense of moving them, as long as the county eventually signs the titles over to Michael Belford.
At their regular meeting Thursday, Scioto County Commissioners, in the absence of commissioner Bryan Davis, accepted the letter from Donini, but took no action on his suggestion to transfer the titles.
“I can’t help but think they could make something off them,” said commission Chair Michael Crabtree.
“I’ve heard of the old adage, ‘One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,’” Donini said in his email. “If Scioto county was operating a junkyard, I guess we would be sitting on a gold mine, but we aren’t operating a junkyard… I just can’t understand why the board is in opposition with me about this!”
Prior to approaching county commissioners, Donini went to the Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office, which serves as legal counsel for the sheriff’s office. Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Parker stated transferring the vehicles to a private citizen is legal as long as the vehicles have no value. Donini is insistent the cars are worthless and further stated in his most recent email, disposing of the cars in some other manner actually would cost the county money.
“If the board of commissioners chooses any other method of disposing of these vehicles, they will subject the taxpayers to unnecessary financial costs pertaining to the storage fees for storing the vehicles,” Donini wrote.
Prior to Thursday’s county commissioner’s meeting, Donini sent various media the same information he sent commissioners and the prosecutor’s office. Donini stated the cars are a subject commissioners “sharply criticized me about in a previous meeting when they admitted to stonewalling me in ordering new vehicles. I am simply trying to resolve their issues but I’m sure this won’t be acceptable to them even though this is the route that our legal advisor has recommended.”
As part of the information sent to the prosecutor’s office, Donini included what he said is an inventory of the vehicles in question. That inventory consists almost entirely of Ford Crown Victoria’s, ranging from model year 1998 to model year 2010. The newest cars listed on the inventory are two 2012 Dodge Chargers.
Note: In our initial story on the contested fate of the unused sheriff’s vehicles, the Portsmouth Daily Times inadvertently reported there are 63 cars in question. Donini has consistently said there are 62 cars in question. The Daily Times regrets this error.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.