Woodbury County Courthouse security

Troy Jones, of Sioux City, walks through a metal detector Aug. 29 in the Woodbury County Courthouse. A state panel has ruled in favor of sheriff's deputies who filed a grievance last year over security personnel.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | Bringing an expected end to a yearlong struggle, the Woodbury County Sheriff's Office will take over courthouse security and replace the current supervisor on May 1.

Sheriff's Deputy Don Armstrong will be transferred from patrol duty and take over for current security chief Marty Pottebaum. The former Sioux City policeman and city councilman will be out of a job April 30.

"I'm glad that they are keeping my staff," Pottebaum said Tuesday. "They will continue to do a good job."

County officials told the Journal that courthouse security oversight will shift from the Human Resources Department to the Sheriff's Office.

The county Board of Supervisors approved the change in February on a 3-1 vote, and the matter was not discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

Sheriff Dave Drew said the change will be an improvement because the security workers will be sworn peace officers who can carry weapons and have full arrest powers. They don't have that authority now.

"It is a step in the right direction," Drew said. "It is just a better fit because it is under the sheriff and not Human Resources."

Drew said the existing contract requires that those who supervise personnel must have the rank of sergeant or higher. He said he offered Pottebaum one of the part-time positions but that he declined.

The rest of the current security staff will be retained after some training.

"We're going to have a very smooth transition," board Chairman Mark Monson said.

Monson said the county has finally arrived at the security program he wanted all along.

Drew had expected to provide staffing after the supervisors in early 2014 approved the security plan requested by courthouse officials. But the board decided in May to have the Human Resources Department hire retired law enforcement officers and others to staff a metal detector at the building's entrance.

Seven guards were hired to fill three daily positions, starting at the end of August. There are now six working, after one left.

The outsourcing, aimed at saving an estimated $70,000 a year in personnel costs, resulted in sheriff's deputies filing a grievance through their union. The action before the Public Employee Relations Board in November pitted deputies in the Communications Workers of America Local 7177 against the new security workers, who are represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3462. The county supported AFSCME in the action.

The deputies union contended the current contract between the county and union mandates that all security in county buildings be provided by the Sheriff’s Office.

The change is being made in spite of the pending ruling. Monson on Tuesday would not address how the ruling might affect the planned switch.

Human Resources Department Director Ed Gilliland had said the ruling was expected by March 22. He said the administrative judge wrote in an email in late March that he had composed a draft of a decision, but it isn't known when the decision will be rendered.

Gilliland said Pottebaum performed well in his eight months leading security workers. He supports the change, which lightens his department's workload. 

"I am fine with the switch," Gilliland said.

Drew said staffing courthouse security through his office will cost $136,222, well below the budgeted amount. The county allocated $250,000 for a security plan this year, which includes metal detectors and cameras.

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County and education reporter

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