Wyandotte jailer angered many coworkers.

Jailhouse Knock 

Wyandotte jailer angered many coworkers.

At the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department, not many people miss suspended jail administrator J.B. Hopkins.

Sheriff Leroy Green Jr. fired Hopkins July 3. The Jail Population Control Committee reinstated him two days later. Then Green refused to let Hopkins come to work. Now the sheriff must explain to a federal judge why he acted without the court-appointed committee's approval.

Green won't elaborate on why he fired Hopkins, saying only that Hopkins was insubordinate and abusive toward the sheriff's department staff. Deputies and jail personnel describe Hopkins, a former Marine with thirty years of law enforcement and administrative experience, as a harsh man who reduced female staffers to tears and humiliated subordinates in front of their peers.

Hopkins would summon his secretary, who worked in an adjacent office, by striking the wall with his fist and yelling, say several sources within the department. Green eventually demanded an end to Hopkins' wall-banging. But the administrator's style remained abrasive.

"He would get the sergeants and lieutenants together and call them dumb, stupid and incompetent," says Undersheriff Rick Mellott, who regularly fielded the litany of complaints from offended deputies. Those who questioned the administrator soon regretted it.

Deputy David Martin says Hopkins became enraged with him after Martin consulted another county official about the purchase of a cell-block TV.

"He started poking me in the chest and yelling, 'You work for me!'" says Martin, who filed a complaint after the incident.

Lieutenant Walter Dobbs, a twelve-year veteran with the sheriff's department, has been subjected to Hopkins' temper more than once.

"One time he cussed me out from one side of the street to the other. He talked to me like I had a tail between my legs," recalls Dobbs.

Before Hopkins was hired in 1996, the Wyandotte County Jail was plagued by allegations of physical abuse of inmates, mismanagement of money and secret payments to inmates. Hopkins, who had run a 1,000-bed private prison in Eloy, Arizona, and a county jail in Alabama, seemed just the sort of hard-nosed administrator needed for the troubled lockup.

Conditions improved, but Hopkins' tough approach frequently was excessive, says Green. For two years, Green says, he tried to get the Unified Government to take action against Hopkins. The sheriff says he even sent a memo last year to County Administrator Dennis Hays, outlining Hopkins' offensive conduct, yet Unified Government officials took no action.

"The Unified Government has known about this man's behavior since day one, and no one has bothered to do anything about it," says Green. "So I took it upon myself [to fire Hopkins]." When Green fired Hopkins, many within the sheriff's department were relieved -- until the jail committee stepped in.

Green, a former professional boxer who is well-liked by his staff, was re-elected sheriff in November despite wrangling with the Unified Government. For the past year, the jail has been short-staffed. Inmates have been transferred to other facilities at great additional cost. Green has complained that he hasn't received the support necessary to run the jail properly. He believes the Unified Government is seeking to phase out the sheriff's department altogether.

Members of the Jail Population Control Committee aren't talking about why they want to put the administrator back in power. Hopkins deferred all questions to Wyandotte County Administrative Judge Philip L. Sieve, who did not return calls from the Pitch. Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic referred questions to the Unified Government's attorney, Dan Denk, who also did not return calls.

Green's response to the federal judge is due by August 2.

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