In the last several weeks, The Northwest Missourian has published in-depth political profiles of each candidate running for Nodaway County Sheriff, Republican incumbent Randy Strong and former sheriff Darren White, a Democrat, who have each made claims about their opponent in interviews with The Missourian and in campaign advertisements and social media posts.
White, of course, served as the county’s sheriff for two terms after first winning the office in 2008. He was unseated by Strong in 2016 and is seeking the office again after four years of life away from law enforcement and the public eye at large, making this election unique, with two candidates each running for “reelection.”
As we aim to do with every topic we report on, The Missourian is committed to bringing accurate, verified reporting to serve as a buffer in what seems to be the most contentious election in Maryville and the county as a whole.
With less than a month until Nov. 3, when area voters will head to the polls — or mail in ballots — to decide who will serve as the face of law enforcement in Nodaway County for the next four years, we hope our reporting might provide unmatched insight on the candidates and their claims. In our best attempt to provide that insight, we fact-checked some key claims each candidate has made about themselves and their opponent. Here is what we found:
“You have a Sheriff’s Office now who, you know, in the first three years of the administration, almost doubled their budget — increased it by almost a million dollars. And my opponent has — I know that he’s been on social media saying that that’s not true, that it’s all grants and things like that. Well, it is true.”
— Darren White
This is misleading. While it’s accurate the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office, jail and 911 budgets — all of which are overseen by the sheriff — have increased in Strong’s tenure, new accounting software accounts for most of the perceived increase in spending. The three budgets grew by a total of $718,180 from the end of 2016 to the end of last year. But budget records indicate $579,928 of that increase — more than 80% — can be attributed to new accounting software that shifted line items like employee insurance costs from the county’s general fund to the sheriff’s office’s annual budget. These costs were already being covered by Nodaway County taxpayers and will largely remain the same regardless of who is sheriff.
“We are not getting sued for the way we are running the jail, that the last administration got sued for.”
— Sheriff Randy Strong
This is true. There were at least 5 legal cases brought upon Darren White’s administration during his time in office between 2009 and 2016, according to court documents from the 4th Judicial Circuit. These cases include alleged incidences at the Nodaway County jail.
“In talking to the people in the county, they really feel like they’ve been abandoned. The common theme that you hear is they never see anybody. They call for help, nobody shows up. ... I think that you have to have a presence — a regular presence — in these outlying communities, so that the bad guys, if you will, know that somebody’s watching. Absolutely (that presence has decreased in the last four years.) Absolutely. And if you go out and talk to the people that live in the county, they will most certainly tell you that.”
— Darren White
This lacks evidence. While White has said the Strong’s administration has placed an unnecessary, increased focus on the Maryville community, where Maryville Public Safety already patrols, Computer Aided Dispatching records from the sheriff’s office, which represent phone calls fielded by the office regardless of whether a report was filed, show otherwise. Under Strong in 2019, the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office took 512 fewer calls from residents with Maryville addresses than the office did in 2016 — White’s last year in office. Meanwhile, the office fielded 1,870 calls from 16 outlying cities in the county, such as Skidmore and Hopkins, in 2019, down slightly from a total of 1,920 calls from the same outlying cities in 2016.
Additionally, the office filed more reports — which are simply written statements drafted by deputies that include facts and circumstances surrounding an incident — in each of the first three years of Strong’s tenure than it did in any year of White’s second term, which ran from 2013 through the end of 2016.
“I made several campaign promises when I originally ran for office (in 2008). And I fulfilled all of those promises, and one of those promises was that we would have people working around the clock every day of the week, which is something that had never happened here before. And I think that people deserve that. (The sheriff’s office has) kind of gone backwards, and they actually have days where they just decide to take (calls), and nobody’s really out there on the road.”
— Darren White
This is false. According to comprehensive scheduling records dating back to January 2017 provided to the Missourian by the sheriff’s office, there has been at least one deputy on duty in Nodaway County around the clock since Strong took office. More than 50 pages of timesheets show deputies work 12-hour patrol shifts, most often beginning at either 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. — a change from White’s tenure, when deputies worked 10-hour shifts.
“Before I took office, it was 30 years of catering to people’s egos, to the point where our radio equipment was falling apart. The consolidated 911 center was a campaign goal of mine, and we did it.”
— Randy Strong
This is mostly true. Forming and implementing what is now called the Northwest Regional Communications Center, which includes dispatch for Maryville Public Safety and Nodaway County was a project in the making for an extended period of time, totaling over 30 years, officially. City leadership, former law enforcement agency heads and administrative issues all led to a drawn-out process for completing the project. During his time in office, Strong worked on issues on the sheriff’s office level, allowing for the center to operate within the new Maryville Public Safety Building.
“(In the previous administration) there was a monthly, if not weekly, physical encounter with inmates and staff.”
— Randy Strong
This lacks evidence. Though multiple sources confirm accounts of physical encounters at the jail, the encounters are not explicitly defined. The physical encounters could include a variety of definitions, and there is a varying amount of time between incidences provided.