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Sheriff lays off deputies after federal grant runs out


MCALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ The loss of funding from a federal grant has forced the sheriff of Latimer County to lay off three-fourths of his deputies.

Sheriff Melvin Holly was paying the deputies through a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant that was awarded in 1997.

``That was for about $150,000 and I was able to stretch it out for a few years, but now the money's gone,'' Holly said Friday, the day eight of his 12 full-time deputies were let go.

Latimer County officials budgeted $223,306 for the sheriff's department this year, said Jane Brinkley, county clerk.

Holly's budget can pay for the sheriff, undersheriff, three deputies, a secretary and a jailer, Brinkley said.

``They didn't give me what I asked for, so now I'm going to be short on people,'' Holly said. ``I'll have to be asking for volunteers and we'll all be rotating at the jail, even the secretary.''

Holly's budget request sought more than $203,000 in salaries, Brinkley said.

``I have to have someone at this jail 24 hours a day,'' Holly said. ``I'm not going to subject the people of Latimer County to a lawsuit because somebody got hurt or sick and there was no jailer here.''

Holly's office already has been sued in federal district court.

The July 22 lawsuit by Hinton resident Jerry Lambert alleges Holly and former deputy Roy Dugan assaulted him while Lambert was an inmate of the Latimer County Jail.

Lambert fell off his bunk, Holly said.

The Latimer County Sheriff's Department serves a mostly rural population of 7,720 in southeastern Oklahoma.

In neighboring Pittsburg County, the sheriff's department serves a population of 21,120 and has 16 full-time officers.

Four of those officers are paid through grant money.
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