County detention center administrator resigns

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

Curry County Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said he resigned Friday because he felt county officials lacked confidence in his management skills.

The Curry County Sheriff’s Office administered an unannounced search of the jail at 7 a.m. Friday at the request of Curry County Manager Dick Smith and County Commissioner Ed Perales, who serve on a jail management team. Burdine handed in his resignation letter to the county one hour later, according to Lance Pyle, the county’s personnel director.

“The jail is so turbulent — I don’t mind doing the job if the administration is behind me. Recently, I felt the support from the administration was not such that I could comfortably continue to function in that position,” Burdine said Friday afternoon in a phone interview.

Burdine was hired as the county’s jail administrator for the second time in 2002. He said he stepped down from the position earlier due to “a difference in philosophy.” In between his stints with Curry County’s jail, he served as Roosevelt County jail administrator.

Curry County officials said they had no indication Burdine would resign.

“It was a choice he made on his own,” Pyle said.

The last county-mandated search of the detention center occurred about four years ago, Pyle said. But random detention searches are routine and necessary, he and the county manager said.

“(Searches) should be done randomly and routinely for the safety of our employees, our community, and the inmates,” Pyle said.

Burdine was not informed of search plans, which included inspection of staff lockers, said Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher.

“We go in and lock the facility down,” Hatcher said. “All inmates are locked in their cells and the water is shut off so no one can flush something down the toilet. We go into each individual cell and pat the inmates down for contraband. We shake out personal property — blankets, mattresses, all that.”

Burdine said his staff was competent and performed shakedowns daily.

Hatcher said Friday’s search highlighted several jail issues, including contraband among inmates and graffiti problems. He said his staff found a small amount of marijuana and two shanks, or improvised knives, which Burdine said inmates often fashion from toothbrushes, metal, or wood. A detention center camera was also obstructed by wads of tissue.

Hatcher said random shakedowns should be performed by non-jail administrators.

“You may not think to look up at the camera to see if toilet paper is there if you are there every single day,” Hatcher said.

He said the problems are “not necessarily a reflection on the staff.”

Supervision of the jail has been temporarily handed over to Hatcher’s office. Deputy Sheriff Teddy Blair has been named interim jail administrator.

Smith said he is searching for someone to fill the position permanently.

“Don is a good guy,” Hatcher said. “He has been a friend of mine for a long time. This detention center is not an easy job. I am not criticizing Don or his administration.”