November 1, 2016—This is one of the most important races of the year,” declared Assembly Woman Crystal Peoples-Stokes during a recent press conference endorsing Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff. She could not have been more correct.
Over the years this newspaper has received countless letters from inmates about deplorable conditions and all too often physical abuse – at the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility at Alden.
The man that Bernie Tolbert is running to replace, Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, should have been gone a long time ago. Under his watch, the number of inmate deaths by suicide and abuse, lawsuits, criminal investigations and mismanagement, have been well documented.
Your vote is critical in that it can help bring about much needed change and restore civility and transparency to this law enforcement agency.
That’s why it’s so important that you go to the polls next Tuesday and elect Bernie Tolbert as the next Erie County Sheriff. Tolbert – despite withstanding the slings and arrows of outrageous political attack ads – has run a commendable, above board campaign.
His “issues that matter” include the County Holding Center, street violence, the heroin and opioid epidemic and guaranteeing justice for all. Bernie is no stranger to the inner city.
Buffalo born, he was raised in the Willert Park Housing Project by his amazing mother, where respect and education was stressed. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work.
Over the years his career choices have included serving as FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Office; and Vice President of Security, Coca Cola, HSBC Bank and the NBA – a total of 20 years of solid law enforcement experience.
Mr. Tolbert is no lightweight and he retuned home to this area several years ago to lend his skills and expertise to help build a city, county and community we can all be proud of.
Bernie Tolbert is the only, and best choice in the upcoming election. He has the integrity, intelligence, temperament and high level experience to make the Erie County Sheriff’s Department one of the best in the country.
Political hopefuls like Mr. Tolbert come along only once in a great while. That is why we are so proud to endorse his candidacy! And why, as a community, we can’t afford to miss out on this opportunity to elect him to this important position.
Please join us in voting for Bernie Tolbert, Democrat, for Erie County Sheriff on Tuesday, November7!
Get Out And Vote Rally November 4
For Erie County Sheriff Candidate BERNIE TOLBERT
Union Endorsement of Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sherrif
Posted by Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff on Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Click below to read the full endorsement letter of Bernie Tolbert
from the Buffalo Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Here is Bernie’s latest ad. One of three that will hit TV in the next 24 hours. Help us spread Bernie’s message and remember to vote Nov. 7th.
Here is Bernie's latest ad. One of three that will hit TV in the next 24 hours. Help us spread Bernie's message and remember to vote Nov. 7th
Posted by Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff on Monday, October 30, 2017
Buffalo, NY October 29, 2017 —Today, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown endorsed Democrat Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff.
“It is now more important than ever that we elect leaders who can build on our successes and continue to move our city and our county forward,” said Mayor Brown. “Erie County residents deserve a sheriff who creates a system for accountability, and ensures “justice for all. To that end, Bernie Tolbert has the professional experience to serve as the county’s top law enforcement officer.”
In acknowledging the Mayor’s support Bernie Tolbert spoke of future collaboration in ensuring the safety of Erie County. “It is a great honor to have the endorsement of Mayor Brown, a leader whose service to the City of Buffalo has strengthened our city and our region. His leadership has made Buffalo smarter, safer, and I pledge to work closely with Mayor Brown and all county and municipal partners to continue to expand on this progress.”
About Bernie Tolbert: Bernie Tolbert is the former Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo office overseeing the Western New York region. He has more than 30 years of professional experience at the highest levels of law enforcement and corporate security. Born and raised in Buffalo, Mr. Tolbert holds a master degree in social work from the SUNY Buffalo and worked in education and social work in Erie County before launching a career with the FBI.
Mr. Tolbert’s campaign platform features four primary agenda items:
- Clean up the County jails and restore pride and professionalism to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office
- Beat the opioid and heroin addiction epidemic ravaging Erie County
- Collaboratively work to turn back the tide of rising street crime
- Restore a culture of respect and civility
3) Click here to volunteer to help Bernie win on Nov. 7th.
By Jean Dickson
While the most grievous effects of Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s administration are the loss of lives in the Holding Center and the Correctional Facility, there have also been tremendous financial costs to the taxpayers of Erie County.
County Attorney Michael A. Siragusa’s reports show that no county official has used more public funds to protect his misdeeds than the sheriff has during the years 2008 to 2016 (Howard has been sheriff since 2005). Often this involved “outside counsel” – private lawyers – hired by the county.
Besides suicides and other deaths, many cases involve failure to protect inmates’ health and safety while they await arraignment. Some of these cases have been reported in The Buffalo News. In one case, Quandrell Ivey was denied adequate medical care while locked in the Holding Center in 2009. He sued in 2010, and in 2014 he got a settlement of $600,000; the county paid outside counsel $58,131. Total expense for the county: $658,131.
In another case, Mark Curcie suffered a punctured lung and loss of his spleen in 2006 when deputies used excessive force to subdue him. In 2009, his case was settled for $250,000.
From 2008 to 2011, $291,410 was spent to defend the sheriff’s noncompliance with the U.S. Department of Justice and New York State Commission of Correction’s efforts to clean up the jails and save the lives and health of inmates.
An effort to hide these expenditures cost $19,117 for outside counsel plus the legal fees awarded to the New York Civil Liberties Union, another $9,123. Later, in 2014 and 2015, the county paid $22,493 to stop the NYCLU from viewing documents on the sheriff’s warrantless surveillance. All this cover-up money adds up to $342,143.
Most settlements are confidential; however, a few reported settlements paid to seven victims or their families amount to approximately $1.2 million.
In 2011, then County Executive Chris Collins released a list of 10 legal settlements for incidents that occurred from 2005 to 2008. The total was $461,000; the average payout was $46,100. At that rate, we should expect about 30 more settlements for deaths and injuries for the years up to 2017, resulting in at least $1.38 million.
The county might have to spend much more on the India Cummings and Metcalf cases.
So, adding up the expenditures for defense of Howard, the expense to the county amounts to at least $2.5 million. Future costs may skyrocket, adding at least $1.4 million, unless the training and culture of the Sheriff’s Department change radically.
Erie County cannot afford another Howard term.
Jean Dickson is a retired librarian with considerable research skills and a long-term interest in criminal justice
The Buffalo News is reporting that lawyers in the Richard Metcalf homicide case have agreed to seal Sheriff Howard’s deposition and that of two of his aides. Separate testimony by sheriff’s deputies that they did not know how to apply the spit mask that choked Metcalf to death has already been made public.
I can’t comment on the legal issues involving the decision to seal Tim Howard’s deposition except to say that court orders to seal documents must be respected.
What I can also say is that it is deeply disappointing that once again Tim Howard is able to keep critical information from public view. This is part of a long, disturbing pattern in the sheriff’s office where all kinds of information – about jail management, training programs for deputies, surveillance programs, the budget and more – is hidden from public scrutiny. I will change that it.
It is also clear that, whatever the outcome of the Richard Metcalf lawsuit, it has been firmly established that jail personnel are not properly trained in even the basic requirements for handling inmates. I will change that too.
As sheriff I will immediately institute a comprehensive review of the training provided to deputies and adopt best practices used at well-run jails across the country.
The nightmare of Tim Howard’s twelve-year mismanagement of Erie County’s jails is about to end.
Erie County, October 17, 2017—-The Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff Campaign today released a video questioning Sheriff Tim Howard’s refusal to participate in a series of candidate forums and debates. According to campaign spokesperson, Christina Abt, the end result of Howard’s refusal is a disservice to the voters of Erie County.
“To date Sheriff Howard has refused to participate in League of Women Voters candidate forums in East Aurora and Hamburg, with another candidate forum in Amherst unsure of his attendance,” Abt stated. “Additionally, the well-respected St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute Debate, scheduled to feature Bernie Tolbert and Sheriff Howard, hangs in the balance. Not only is the sheriff’s disregard for these long-standing election forums a slap in the face to the organizers, his decision to not openly and transparently debate the issues surrounding the 22 deaths in the holding center, 700 opioid deaths in Erie County over the last two years and $2.5 million in county lawsuit settlements with a projected $1.5 million yet to come, is a clear indication of his disrespect for the voters who have elected him and for whom he works.”
The Tolbert video is a tongue and cheek review of the sheriff’s absence from the various candidate forums and debates with suggestions of where he might be found, including a part-time security job the sheriff once held, where he wore his sheriff’s uniform in the middle of a county workday and riding a tractor out in the fields.
The video can be viewed on Bernie Tolbert for Erie County Sheriff’s Facebook page
Sheriff Coward Video