Jury selects Ford for Homeland Security director

Detention Center audit costing parish thousands in lost TWP revenue

By Luke Britt
Editor
The Union Parish Police Jury on Tuesday hired a reserve sheriff’s deputy and former U.S. Marine to head the parish’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, replacing the former director who resigned in January.
Matthew A. Ford of Farmerville, one of five applicants for the position, was recommended for the position by the UPPJ personnel committee and was hired by unanimous vote of the full Jury.
The parish office is an extension of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). The entirety of the office’s budget is funded by the state, including the director’s salary.
As parish director, Ford will be responsible for administering the office’s daily operations, implementing parish and state emergency preparedness strategies and spearheading the local response to natural disasters.
“Matthew really stood out as the best candidate,” Police Jury President Glen Hutto said. “He’s going to do a fine job for us.”
By law, the Police Jury president can appoint the parish GOSHEP director on his own authority and is not required to consult the rest of the jury, but Hutto said Ford, “will be serving the entire parish, so I felt the entire jury should be involved in the decision.”
Candidates for the position were interviewed by Hutto and the Jury’s personnel committee. Hutto said the GOSHEP Director for northeast Louisiana, Rodger McConnell, also took part in the interview process and recommended hiring Ford.
According to Ford’s resume, he served as a helicopter crew chief with the U.S. Marine Corps from 2005-2010, with part of his tour spent as a crew chief with Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the military unit responsible for piloting the President whenever he travels by helicopter.
Ford has served as a reserve deputy with the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office since 2017 and has been an employee of AutoZone since 2010 where he worked as District Manager over 12 stores in the Shreveport area.
Budget shortfall
During the public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting, Jury watcher Johnny Creed pointed out that a sharp decline in revenues from the Union Parish Detention Center’s Transitional Work Program could create a sizable hole in the 2024 parish budget.
The state Department of Corrections established the TWP program in 2009 with the stated purposes of preparing inmates for re-entry to society. The program allows eligible inmates to take jobs with approved employers and earn wages, 60 percent of which are claimed by the Detention Center. The remaining 40 percent is deposited into bank accounts the DC maintains for the inmates.
The program, which generated about $3 million in 2023, turned the DC from a $1 million-a-year burden on the parish budget to a self-sustaining facility with a budget surplus.
When the Department of Corrections discovered irregularities in the TWP accounts of a number of inmates in September of last year, however, the DOC initiated an audit that has since stymied the program’s ability to generate revenue.
When the audit began, inmates already placed with employers were allowed to continue working, but the Detention Center was prohibited from adding any new TWP jobs. In November, the DOC estimated that the audit would be complete early this year but, as of Tuesday, was still ongoing.
In the 2024 budget approved in December, the Jury estimated TWP revenue at $1.1 million for the year. According to the Jury’s most recent Revenue and Expenditures Report, the program has generated only $103,784.37 as of March 31.
According to Russell Wade, chairman of the Jury’s finance committee, the jury has known about the potential shortfall for some time, and does not consider it a serious problem, yet, in large part because the DC is currently carrying a $600,000 surplus.
“We are anticipating being back fully operational with the work release program around the first of June,” Wade said. “If for some unforeseen reason that doesn’t happen, which we have no reason to believe at this time will be the case, we would obviously have to look at other avenues to fund the DC.”

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