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Johns steps down as corrections director
June 03, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Ron Johns, Director of the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center, submitted his resignation after heading up the facility for almost 10 years.

In his letter, Johns said he was retiring effective May 31. Until then, he was using up some of his earned vacation time.

Johns has been with county corrections for 22 years. He started as the director of the juvenile facility before it was moved into a separate wing of the recently built jail.

“Ron’s resignation came up all of a sudden, so we had to do something right away,” said County Board Chairman Mark Masterton. “We moved Patricia Miller, the assistant director, into the position on an interim basis.”

Masterton said that after the board officially accepts Johns’ resignation at its June 6 meeting, the county will advertise nationally and regionally to find a replacement.

“Ron’s been under a lot of stress because it’s a challenge to work in any jail,” Masterton said. “It’s the nature of the business and it can wear people out.”

Some of the stress came from a recently decided federal lawsuit against the county over the death of corrections officer Amanda Baker.

Baker was attacked and strangled by an inmate in the juvenile facility on Feb. 14, 2014. She died two days later. Dylan Cardielhac was convicted of second degree murder in the incident.

On May 24, Judge Laurie Smith Camp dismissed the lawsuit against the county and Matt Botzki, Baker’s supervisor. Johns and another detention center employee previously has been dismissed from the action.

The lawsuit was filed by Julie Baszler, Baker’s mother. One of the points alleged the video surveillance had been disabled on the juvenile side. However, the county said current jail protocol allowed officers to be in control of the doors on the juvenile side and video bank surveillance was an alternative safety measure.

Judge Camp’s ruling said the county, or Botzki, were not liable for Baker’s death. Also, there was no evidence that direct video surveillance was the standard in juvenile detention facilities.

The county had asserted that Botzki possessed qualified immunity in the case.

Masterton said there was no argument as to the county’s amount of responsibility in Baker’s death and they were willing to pay damages. Although their insurance company had written checks, they were never cashed on advice of counsel.

“The judge clearly decided there are clear limits to the county’s liability under the law,” Masterton said. “We knew there wasn’t a case from the beginning, so we’re happy with the outcome.”
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