Tuesday May 20, 2014
A reference in a Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce newsletter to Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers’ controversial visit to Nevada last month sparked the law enforcement official’s ire.
That led Rogers to voice his displeasure in a Facebook post (chamber reps, he wrote, should refrain from “snide remarks”), which led to scores of comments, largely from backers coming to the sheriff’s defense. Some bashed the chamber. Then Chamber President Kyle Hannon ultimately posted a message of his own in the Facebook feed, apologizing if the chamber publication “seemed disrespectful.”
ANATOMY OF THE TIFF
Here’s the opening from the chamber’s online Policy Points newsletter last Friday, May 16, that led to the back-and-forth (look for it in full here): “Long ago, when the sheriff’s office put more attention on local than national issues, Elkhart County considered a new juvenile justice facility.”
The item goes on to discuss the need for a new juvenile justice facility (a focus of much attention among county leaders a few years back), the obstacles in funding the proposal and, more broadly, the money woes facing Elkhart County government.
The chamber item didn’t specifically mention Rogers’ April 18-20 Nevada trip last month (though Hannon alludes to the visit in his apology). But in mentioning the sheriff’s attention to national issues, the reference seems apparent, and Rogers took umbrage in a post (here) on his Facebook page.
The chamber entry, as the sheriff viewed it, accused him “of not caring about local issues,” Rogers wrote. “This cannot be further from the truth.”
Rogers, a foe of federal government meddling, visited the Bunkerville, Nev., ranch of Cliven Bundy, who is embroiled in an ongoing conflict with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees he owes the feds. At the time, the tense conflict — between conservative critics of federal overreach, like Rogers, and the federal government — was generating national headlines, and Rogers said he visited in a bid to help defuse things.
More on Rogers’ Nevada trip:
In his Facebook message later on Friday, Rogers didn’t get into details of his Nevada trip — praised by many here, criticized by others — but alluded to efforts to maintain public safety in Elkhart County. He said the chamber item “inferred“ he had a role in halting juvenile detention center plans, but noted that he was not sheriff when the debate over the proposal occurred. Furthermore, he added, funding questions are the domain of the Elkhart County Council.
“I suggest they do not make snide remarks about the sheriff when he has nothing to do with the matter,” Rogers wrote. “The remark was merely an unnecessary commentary.”
ROGERS’ FRIENDS RESPOND, THE CHAMBER APOLOGIZES
Rogers’ Facebook friends responded with a strong show of support for the sheriff, some taking aim at the chamber. “The chamber really needs to concern themselves less with political matters and concentrate on commerce as their name implies,” wrote one.
Then Hannon, 67 messages in to the Facebook feed, offered his own comment:
“Sheriff Bradley D. Rogers, I know you care deeply about local issues,” the chamber head wrote. “You also care about broader issues. When you travel to another state, we (community, media, Chamber) got distracted. Our fault not yours. That was kind of the point of our piece. And I realize the decision not to fund the center was not yours. I apologize that our publication seemed disrespectful. That was not the intent. Keep up the good work.”