Greene County sheriff looking forward to work

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WAYNESBURG – Newly elected Greene County Sheriff Brian Tennant was among those to take the oath of office Thursday at a ceremony held by the Greene County Court.

“I’m happy it’s now official and I can get started,” Tennant said, after being sworn in shortly after 10 a.m. by Greene County President Judge William R. Nalitz. “I’m looking forward to serving the citizens of Greene County,” he said.

Tennant replaces Richard Ketchem, who retired at the end of the year citing health reasons after serving 24 years in office.

Tennant will officially assume the office for which he defeated two opponents in the spring primary Monday, according to provisions of the county code. This means that for the next few days the county will be without a sheriff’s department.

“My goal is to get the office up and running as quickly as possible,” Tennant said. He declined to say whether he already has people lined up for the department’s six full time and several part-time and casual positions.

But, Tennant said, he does hope to have people on the job Monday. “That’s my intention, to have at least a minimum staff to start operations.”

Normally, it is the first deputy who assumes the duties of the office when the sheriff is absent. However, all five former employees of the department, including sheriff’s deputies and other staff, received notice Dec. 18 that their employment would be terminated as of 8 a.m. Thursday.

The letter was written by Tracy Zivkovich, Greene County director of human resources, and stated Tennant had informed the county he intended not to automatically hire all current staff, but instead would exercise his hiring rights under the county code.

The employees were advised in the letter to complete an application on the county website for consideration to work in Tennant’s department.

Tennant said he had not directed the letters be sent and had no authority at the time to either hire or fire anyone in the department. He said he didn’t reach out to former employees because he thought it would be inappropriate while Ketchem was still in office.

Tennant declined to comment further on the matter Thursday. “The whole situation was unfortunate and I wish there had been better communications between me and my office and my predecessor’s office,” he said.

The lack of sheriff’s deputies for the remainder of the week required the court to continue two criminal court proceedings for which transportation was necessary between the jail and the courthouse, said Sheila Rode, Greene County court administrator. These proceedings will be rescheduled later, she said.

The sheriff’s office is responsible for transporting prisoners as well as processing gun permit applications, serving court orders, warrants and protection-from-abuse orders, conducting sheriff’s sales and providing courtroom security in criminal proceedings.

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