Cumberland County jail

Cumberland County jail

BRIDGETON — Friction between two Cumberland County freeholders is growing after officials allegedly blocked a package of reforms to the county jail aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19.

The board voted 6-1 Tuesday against resolutions Democrat Jack Surrency submitted to the board clerk May 12.

It includes hazard pay for corrections officers, weekly testing and reporting of personnel and inmates, personal protection equipment disclosures and enforcement of the state attorney general’s guidelines.

Last week, officials reported 14 cases of the novel coronavirus in jail staff but said there were no positive cases in inmates. The announcement came a week after Warden Richard Smith sent an email to The Press stating “we do not have 14 officers who are positive for COVID-19.”

In an email Thursday, county Deputy Administrator Jody Hirata shared data that showed there has not been an increase in staff or inmate cases but has not yet revealed the total number of inmates tested.

“These votes by my colleagues represent politics at its worst,” Surrency said in a statement. “I presented a plan, a plan that’s being used in other places, to test, treat and track COVID in our county jails.”

County Freeholder Director Joseph Derella said Surrency’s account of the meeting was a “blatant misrepresentation” in a news release.

“Freeholder Surrency completely misrepresents the Board’s action as a rejection when, in fact, action on the resolutions was postponed until necessary additional information Surrency should have presented can be supplied to the board.” Derella said. “Freeholder Surrency proposed four poorly worded and researched resolutions for the board’s consideration without supplying any of the information necessary for the board to discharge its duty to the public to intelligently consider and vote on those resolutions.”

Derella argued that “Surrency came to the board meeting completely unprepared to answer the most basic questions concerning the scope, length and cost of hazard pay he proposes, and the manner, method and cost of the testing, PPE and tracking he expects the taxpayers to fund.”

Contact: 609-272-7241

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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