published Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Sergeant touts candidacy for Hamilton County sheriff

A Hamilton County Sheriff's Office sergeant has qualified to challenge Sheriff Jim Hammond in the upcoming May 6 Republican primary.

Sgt. Chris Harvey, who has worked at the sheriff's office for 18 years, said he is running because he believes the funds at the department are "grossly mismanaged," there is a lack of manpower -- especially at the jail -- and because he disagrees with some of Hammond's controversial comments in the last few years.

Hammond declined to speak directly to Harvey's comments.

"I'll do it at the proper time when my campaign starts," the sheriff said Friday.

The sheriff's office budget of about $29.7 million, Harvey said, has been "grossly mismanaged by this sheriff to include the hiring of family and friends and giving raises -- all of which were not budgeted."

Harvey said the department struggles with manpower problems.

"Working among the rank and file of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, I have seen many different ways that are cost neutral to alleviate the manpower situation within the sheriff's office, particularly the jail."

Harvey also criticized some comments Hammond has made.

"This sheriff feels the American citizens are insecure because of a black president. I don't think that the majority of the American citizens feel that way," he said. "And most importantly, this sheriff's idea of dealing with the troubled youth in Hamilton County is to run them out of town, send them to jail or send them to the funeral home. It troubles me as it does many of the citizens of Hamilton County."

Instead, Harvey proposes sending young offenders to church, partnering with community leaders and providing them with educational opportunities.

Harvey was one of six sergeants who filed a grievance arguing there was a pay disparity in the established pay range for sergeants. After appeals through Chancery Court, the state Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court, it was decided that Hammond has the power to make individual pay decisions.

It's possible the sheriff's race also will include former Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd, who picked up paperwork to qualify, but has not announced whether he is running. The deadline to qualify is Feb. 20.

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