The troubles at the Cuyahoga County Jail took center stage Tuesday as Sheriff Cliff Pinkney testified before council members.
Pinkney was brought in after council issued its first-ever subpoena, and the questioning follows a series of deaths reported at the jail and poor conditions for inmates as the county works on improvements.
One of the major points of the discussion: Who was in charge? The sheriff’s office was directed to oversee jail operations as other counties in the state operate—but today, Sheriff Pinkney said he wasn’t the one making the big decisions.
"In my position as sheriff, the only thing I could do was make recommendations," he said.
Pinkney testified he followed a chain of command, going from the chief protections officer, chief of staff, and then to the executive.
"By statute, the sheriff runs the jails," District 5 Councilman Michael Gallagher said. "We’re getting answers that someone else is running the jails."
Gallagher added he remembers conversations with Pinkney citing frustration with jail director Ken Mills, who resigned ahead of a scathing U.S. Marshals report on the jail. Since then, Pinkney says improvements have been made, such as adding new bedding and shower curtains and addressing maintenance issues.
However, Pinkney says the aging jail doesn’t have the space or "usefulness" as it once did.
"My recommendation is to build a new facility," he told the council.
In addition to the reports, others have been named as defendants in numerous lawsuits, including Pinkney and County Executive Armond Budish. The latter has been accused of attempting to silence whistleblowers in the scandal.
Pinkney has already announced he will resign his position this Saturday, although he claims it is because of "personal reasons."