Although law enforcement is a serious job, the Clermont County Sheriff’s Department took a little time last week to kick back and have some fun while recognizing some employees who have performed in a serious way over the past year. Over a banquet provided by sheriff’s department staff and Miami Market, the sheriff led the assembled guests in a festive awards ceremony.
Honored for meritorious activity were Corporal Chris Stratton, Investigator Lori Saylor, Sergeant Gary Payne and Deputy Timothy Simmons. Receiving the sheriff’s commendation were John Van Camp Jr. and Corrections Officer Pete Ornella. Also honored were two recently retired employees, Elaine Miller and Jo Ann Pringle.
Sheriff Rodenberg took a few minutes to describe each awardee and talk a little about what makes them special.
Ornell, who received the sheriff's other award of commendation also weathered a few jokes during the ceremony, which were deemed justly deserved by some of the merry makers present.
"Pete is very quiet, at least around me," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "This year, Pete completed 20 years of service. He's been a very conscientious and dependable employee. He worked inside the jail until he became a supervisor of our trustee program. These are the crews you see out mowing lawns and washing cars. Under Pete's leadership and direction, this program has quadrupled in size in the last five or six years. A funny thing about Pete is his driving habits. There are no way he will get a speeding ticket. People used to rush out of here at the end of the day so they won't get stuck behind the 'Pete parade' going to Batavia. He recently moved nearby and walks to work daily. They asked why he walks to work, and I said it was much faster than what he drives. Those who know him know he has a mischievous side, and in his early years he managed to imitate the sound and cadence of Chief Willis' voice. Many an officer fell victim to Pete on the phone or intercom presenting himself as Willis."
More seriously, four officers were honored for their work over the past year, in some cases for doing the right thing at the right time, and in others for their diligence in following up on leads.
"Late last year, we were experiencing a rash of residential thefts and breaking and enterings," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "We didn't have many leads. After this luncheon last year, while on patrol in Monroe Township, Deputy Simmons noticed a suspicious looking vehicle, that was backed up to a building. He investigated and noticed it was unattended, but the door was open. He contacted the homeowner and determined that he had driven up on someone who was getting ready to rip someone off. He called in a canine unit, and the dog was able to track a suspect hiding in the woods. He was dressed in camoflage and missing a shoe. His shoe was later found near the barn. It tied him to the scene, and the man was arrested and indicted and convicted. This is the result of Deputy Simmons' work. A number of other cases were closed due to this."
Investigator Lori Saylor was honored in a different fashion, mainly for her work in helping to track sex offenders and organize a county database listing their locations of residence.
"You've heard of unfunded mandates, the sheriff's department has received a few of those," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "Lori has a thankless job. A recent one was SORN, the Ohio sex offender registration and notification system. We have to register them and then follow up to make sure they are living where they say they are living. This is a moving target, people are constantly moving in and out, and in order to keep the database up to date, we have to have someone manage it. I don't believe she volunteered for it, but she's a trooper and got it done. It's achieved the goal of offender tracking. If the word gets out that we're watching, more come in and do what they're supposed to do. This year, we've had 14 disappear, but we've found them. Currently, we have about 256 registered sex offenders, the third highest county in the region behind Hamilton and Butler counties. Because of Lori's work, we're able to track them more efficiently."
Sgt. Gary Payne, a longtime employee of the department, earned recognition for his work in tracking down wanted individuals who had left the county, and in some cases the country.
"Gary diligently works to serve active warrants on wanted persons, both here in our county and those who have decided to take a trip," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "It's hard enough to catch them in our county, but when the go to another state or county, the task can sometimes be monumental. Two such efforts come to mind, Brian Small and Jason Blevins. Mr. Small was indicted for rape and sexual battery. He took refuge in Canada. Sgt. Payne was able to identify where Mr. Small had situated himself. He was captured and confessed to a range of crimes. This was an international arrest, and when you have those, the legal system can get complicated. At this time, he's not returned to us, but will be brought back to face the music. Mr. Blevins was indicted for failing to register his address as as sex offender. He was on the run for 16 months. Gary ultimately tracked him down in Colorado, but he disappeared and ended up in California. The long arm of Gary's law found him there. He was captured and extradited back here."
Payne also took part in a local roundup of delinquent child support payers, which has gained some momentum over the past few years.
"For the past few years, we've been involved with domestic relations court in a child support roundup," said Sheriff Rodenberg. "These are deadbeats who owe thousands in child support. Gary led that operation with other deputies to find these people. As a result, a total of 127 child support delinquent payors were found and arrested. We hope this provides a deterrent."
Lastly, Corporal Chris Stratton was honored for his work in developing leads in a missing person case that ultimately led to the discovery of the missing individual's remains.
"Michael Fish was a critical missing person, and had been missing one month," said Sheriff Rodenberg. Corporal Stratton was able to develop some leads through a prisoner he had arrested. The individual said that Fish had been killed and was able to provide detailed information about the offense. That led to the discovery of Mr. Fish's remains. Corporal Stratton worked very hard on this case."