CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After interviewing candidates behind closed doors for three hours on Thursday, state Regional Jail Authority members voted 6-0 to hire the agency's interim executive director as its full-time head.Authority members voted to offer the position to Joe DeLong without discussion after the interviews.DeLong, a former House of Delegates majority leader who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2008, has been serving as acting executive director since February. He said Thursday he wants to continue working on critical issues with staffing, procurement, and finances.Last month, West Virginia had more than 1,800 prisoners waiting for a bed to open up in the state's 10 regional jails.Overcrowding is clearly a problem, DeLong said, but added, "It's not an issue entirely within our control. Our concern is how to manage it."John Lopez, policy and research director for the Regional Jail Authority, and Vicki Greene, administrator of the Southern Regional Jail, were also interviewed for the job. A fourth candidate, Richard Lisenby, was to be interviewed by telephone, but decided not to participate. A state legislator said last week that Lopez had recently found a listening device in an air duct above his office. Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, said Lopez had notified Charleston police, who turned the matter over to the FBI.Also Thursday, Regional Jail Authority members:Got an update from DeLong on scheduling software that should allow the 10 regional jails to set employee schedules with minimal use of mandatory overtime.
The program takes data on minimum staffing requirements at each jail throughout the week, broken down into two-hour increments, along with the total of officers working that week. It then determines optimal scheduling, using variations of five eight-hour days, four 10-hour days, and a four-day workweek comprised of 8- and 12-hour shifts.DeLong said the program should be able to cut costs for of overtime pay -- which topped $7 million in the 2011-12 budget -- in half.He said the scheduling system will be tested in pilot runs in a couple of the jails later this year, but said feedback from staffers has been positive, particularly with its ability to eliminate mandatory overtime."The staff I've talked to are very excited about it, because they think it means they're going to get their lives back," said DeLong.Currently, he said mandatory overtime creates a major employee retention problem in the jails.
"We burn these people out and they leave," he said.Staffers who want to earn extra money will be able to sign up for voluntary overtime, he said.The authority finished the 2011-12 budget year with a balance of just less than $50 million, up about $10 million from the same point in June 2011.Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1220.