Edgar County Board

At what point does this county learn from its past?

Latest Discovery at Jail: Just the Latest in Inept & Illegal Activity

 We could hold this story until we get more information, but decided to share what we have now, with an ending of “stay tuned for more developments…”  Improper use of power and authority is nothing new at the Edgar County Jail. We’ll just share two examples today, the first (all text in italics is taken directly from the court document) an old case, and the second, the current hot action. Stick with us and read this summary – you won’t believe it, or maybe you will…:

Herbert L. BOARD, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
Karl FARNHAM, Jr., et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 03-2628.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

Argued December 12, 2003.

Decided January 5, 2005. While awaiting trial, Duke and Jerry were held at the Edgar County Illinois Jail (“Jail”) for 126 days. On December 6, 2000, they were released from custody following their acquittal on the murder charges. During the brothers’ detention at the Jail, defendant Karl Farnham, Jr. was the Sheriff of Edgar County and defendants Allen Verchota and Kent Rhoades were jailers. At maximum capacity, the two-story Jail could house up to 28 inmates and was staffed by one jailer per shift, per floor. Both men claim that the alleged inhumane and inadequate conditions which existed at the Jail during their confinement infringed upon their constitutional rights.

In summary, the Boards alleged their 8th Amendment rights were violated through three actions of Sheriff Farnham, currently a County Board member and jailers Allen Verchota and Kent Rhoades.

A. The Jail’s Toothpaste Provision 

Jerry claims he did not have toothpaste for 90% of the time during his stay in Jail. Similarly, Duke claims he went without toothpaste for three-and-a-half weeks, although he requested that Farnham supply him with additional toothpaste.  Duke claims that on approximately 15 different occasions during that time.  Duke claims that this deprivation caused him to suffer tooth decay resulting in the removal of several of his teeth while he was confined in the Jail.

Farnham argues that Duke’s testimony attributed toothaches to the two doughnuts he ate every morning for breakfast, and not to the failure to receive toothpaste.   The Boards point out, however, that it is more reasonable to attribute the toothaches to eating two doughnuts a day without being able to brush with toothpaste.   We further note that the Jail provided the doughnuts on a daily basis as the sole breakfast food.

B. The Jail’s Ventilation System 

While incarcerated, Duke and Jerry also suffered frequent nosebleeds, which they attributed to the Jail’s poor ventilation system. Duke and Jerry claim the Jail’s heating and air flow system issued a “constant flow of black fiberglass dust into the cells which caused Jerry, Duke and other inmates to have frequent nosebleeds.  Appellee’s Br. at 20.  Indeed, Duke testified that he suffered from nosebleeds “[e]very day” …  News of this prompted the Boards’ father, Herbert Board, to contact Jacob Payne, an Edgar County Board member, to discuss the Jail’s ventilation system.  As a result of this conversation Farnham hired a heating contractor, Richard Walker (“Walker”), to investigate the concerns and address any issues that may exist. Farnham allegedly told him that “some inmates were sick and the ducts exist.   Walker Aff. ¶4. According to Farnham, Walker’s investigation found nothing wrong with the ventilation system. Nonetheless, Farnham instructed a maintenance crew to clean the vent covers, and suggested that the Jail administrators change the air filters every thirty days.

However, that’s not what Richard Walker’s affidavit stated: Walker testified via sworn affidavit that he observed the following upon inspection of the duct work: (a) “a thick layer of dust and dirt inside the duct work”;(b) “the ducts were lined with an approximate [sic] one inch thick black fiberglass duct liner; this old-fashioned duct liner does not have the protective coating that newer duct liner has [sic], to prevent the fiberglass particles from entering the air flow”; (c) “the liner did not look deteriorated[,] but when I touched it, a large cloud of black dust rolled off the liner”; and (d) “I saw actual particles of fiberglass throughout the black  Walker Aff.  ¶ 6. In response to these observations Walker stated that he told Farnham that the Jail may be suffering from “sick building syndrome,” as  a result of the fiberglass and bacteria present in the ventilation system.  Walker Aff. ¶ 9. In addition, Walker claims he told Farnham that if people were becoming ill, the duct work system should be replaced because, among other things, “[a]ny airborne bacteria or diseases [could] be communicated through the common ductwork to other parts of the building.”  Id. Farnham told Walker that he wanted a “quick solution,” however, Walker told Farnham that, at the very least, the Jail would have to “clean the entire ductwork system, not simply where the air comes out.”  Id. Also, Walker gave Farnham an estimate for the installation of a superior filter and black-light system to kill bacteria in the ducts, but never heard back from Farnham. Walker went on to state that, in his experience, fiberglass particles in the air circulation system can cause nosebleeds and respiratory problems, including those described by Duke and Jerry.

 Apparently Farnham chose not to take Walker’s recommendation seriously.   Duke Board testified that he was unaware that any inspection had taken place.   In addition, Duke stated that Farnham told him that the maintenance crew at the Jail would vacuum the vent covers and registers, but that the ducts (the source of the black fiberglass particles) could not be cleaned without tearing apart the ceilings. A fellow inmate at  the Jail stated in his affidavit that, during the time period when the Boards were being held at the Jail, the Jail’s staff only attempted to vacuum the vents one time.  See Wieland Aff. ¶ 4. Wieland also stated that “the jail was dusty and dirty all the time [and] even when we swept [the black fiberglass residue] up it was dirty just hours later with black dust all over.” Id. at ¶ 5. 

C. Duke’s Asthma 

In addition to causing nosebleeds, Duke Board claims the poor ventilation system exacerbated his pre-existing asthma; a condition which he had previously been able to control with prescription asthma medication.  While incarcerated, Duke was granted access to his inhaler, as well as nebulizer.  However, on at least two occasions, when Duke’s asthma did not respond to such treatments, Jail personnel took him to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.  Duke also claims that jailers, Verchota and Rhoades, denied his requests for his inhaler on several occasions, thus contributing to and exacerbating his asthmatic problems.

According to his mother, before being jailed Duke had his asthma condition under Young control and “was not using much medication or having asthma attacks.”  Aff. ¶ 7. However, while in Jail, Duke’s condition took a turn for the worse (a circumstance which he blames, at least in part, on the poor ventilation system at the Jail)…Duke stated that Verchota and Rhoades did not always comply with his requests.  Duke stated that there were times when Verchota and Rhoades would “not give [him] medication when [he] asked for it,” despite his pounding and kicking the walls to alert the guards that he was having an attack.  Duke claimed he would go all night without his medication and in the morning would “be almost frickin’ dead.” Id. 

The court, after exploring applicable case law reached the following:

III. CONCLUSION

While the Boards’ claims may ultimately fail, we hold that they have presented more than sufficient evidence of alleged constitutional violations to successfully resist a grant of summary judgment to the defendant-appellants on qualified immunity grounds; therefore, the district court’s judgment is

Affirmed.

 Now to this week’s Jail News:

Lets see, the Edgar County Jail was a cesspool in 2000 under Sheriff Karl Farnham, stayed that way through 8 years of Tim Crippes and now the very guy that lost the lawsuit against the county when he was sheriff is a County Board member.  What action has he taken to fix things in his capacity as a County Board member?  To date, we have found NOTHING.  

Current Sheriff  Ed Motley has expressed at County Board meetings numerous times about the deplorable conditions at the jail and the exposure that the County faces from potential lawsuits filed by inmates.   

Taxpayers don’t want a jail that could be confused with the local Super 8, but health and safety concerns must be addressed.

Not only has the current sheriff inherited infrastructure problems, he’s now facing the immediate crisis of dealing with meth trash discovered on the jail’s 2nd floor.  The new Chief Deputy, Steve Guess, discovered it while working on the monumental task of organizing the evidence room.  Interesting that an evidence room wasnt organized in the first place but thats another story…

Now who would have been in charge when the meth trash was improperly and possibly illegally stored?  How about former Sheriff Tim Crippes and Roger Hopper, the former head of the county drug task force? 

Failure to properly dispose of these hazardous materials according to DEA protocol and EPA law places Edgar County in jeopardy of potential lawsuits from inmates, possible state and federal fines, and even Sheriff Department personnel lawsuits. 

At what point does this county learn from their past? 

And as we promised at the beginning of this saga, stay tuned for more developments as there is a jail full of information to share and we promise you are not going to believe it when you read it!

Leave a witty comment