After Criticism, Budish Adds Judge To New Sheriff Screening Panel

Judge John Russo and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish chair a July meeting on justice reform
Judge John Russo and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish chair a July meeting on justice reform. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney hasn't even left office yet, and efforts to replace him have received criticism from the county's top judge. 

County Executive Armond Budish has agreed to add a judge to the committee that will screen candidates for Pinkney's replacement, after Administrative and Presiding Judge John Russo called on the executive to add a sitting jurist to the body. 

The committee includes former Cleveland Municipal Judge Ronald Adrine, but not a sitting member of the common pleas bench. Hours after Budish's office announced the committee, Russo released a statement saying he was “astounded” Budish failed to include judges in the selection committee. Russo called the move “incomprehensible” considering “no entity works closer with the Sheriff’s Department and its deputies in dealing with Justice Center security and the health and welfare of those who come before us.”

County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan confirmed Thursday afternoon that Budish would add a judge to the committee and was waiting for Russo's input. 

The county plans to hire a firm to conduct a national search for a new sheriff. In the meantime, the county has named Lt. Bryan Smith as the temporary replacement for Pinkney, who retires Friday.

Smith, who has 22 years of experience in the county sheriff’s office, begins as acting sheriff on Monday, overseeing the troubled county jails while the county searches for a permanent replacement.

Members of the screening committee are:

• Former Cleveland Municipal Court Administrative Judge Ronald Adrine,

• FrontLine Service CEO Susan Neth,

• Rocky River Police Chief Kelly Stillman,

• Middleburg Heights Police Chief and former Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Edward Tomba,

• Retired Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Reginald A. Wilkinson, and

• Cuyahoga County Board of Health board member Dr. Sherrie Williams.

In a Thursday statement, Russo said the current members of the selection committee were all appropriate choices but was adamant that the group should be expanded.

"For the Court not be included in this critical selection process is not only disappointing, but also troubling," Russo said. "The Court has no objections to the current members of the advisory panel, all of them are well respected in their fields. However, the Common Pleas Court needs to be involved in this process."

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