Sheriff:Pull plug on contract security

Published on Thu, Nov 15, 2007 by ack Kintner

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Sheriff: Pull plug on contract security

By Jack Kintner

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo pulled the plug on a private contractor that has been operating a minimum security jail for the county when he learned of possible sexual misconduct on the part of one of their employees.

A sheriff’s department investigation alleges that 35-year-old Everson resident Tammra J. Baechler, who’s been on the job just two months, engaged in inappropriate behavior “consisting of passing notes of a sexual nature, kissing and fondling body parts.” She was arrested for custodial misconduct and booked into jail.

Elfo also ordered the transfer of all inmates currently held by Security Specialists Plus (SSP) to the county jail. “This most recent incident is the latest in a series of events that has again caused the sheriff’s office to question the propriety of utilizing private contractors to exercise control and custody over inmates,” he said.

SSP, which also contracted with the county to provide animal welfare services, came under fire last year for their response to a dog attack that killed several animals at Wildwood Dream Alpaca farm on Sweet Road. The owners sued SSP, claiming that their slow investigation lost vital evidence and made it impossible to identify the dogs.

A few months later, SSP’s animal control contract was revoked after an Olson Road llama herd was found in severe neglect, and neighbors were able to document years of calls to SSP without response. The herd’s owner was indicted for neglect and the herd confiscated.
Elfo said he’s recommended to Kremen and the county council not renew the contract with SSP.