Sheriff fends off election challenge

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarOtsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. and his wife, Laurie, smile while looking at election results on her phone at state Sen. James Seward’s office on Dietz Street in Oneonta on Tuesday night.

The sheriff of Otsego County held his ground in Tuesday’s election.

Richard Devlin Jr. was poised for a fourth term with 10,392 votes to Bob Fernandez’ 9,356. The results were unofficial as 1,949 absentee ballots were to be counted. Devlin has headed the department since 2006.

Devlin said that his priorities moving forward will include trying to increase funding for the department to better staff the jail and increase road patrols. A $1.5 million restoration of the jail is also in planning stages.

Devlin said he was gathered with friends and family at the office of state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, on Dietz Street in Oneonta to celebrate their victories.

“It’s a privilege to serve the residents of Otsego County as sheriff and I look forward to going back to work tomorrow,” Devlin said.

The race against challenger Robert Fernandez was at times bitter and personal; Fernandez railed against Devlin’s administration as being “steeped in nepotism, cronyism and self-service.”

Fernandez, a retired state trooper, said he decided to run for the position as a response to Devlin’s handling of a county investigation into threats allegedly made by his son, Ros Devlin, a former corrections officer at the jail. An impasse between Devlin and the Otsego County Board of Representatives lasted 15 months while Ros Devlin remained on paid leave from his position.

In January of 2017, Ros Devlin allegedly threatened to kill himself in front of another officer and threatened to “shoot up” Milford Central School and Greater Plains Elementary School in Oneonta, according to court records.

Asked if he thought his re-election would put the criticism in the past, he said the matter is in the hands of the county board chair.

“It doesn’t affect the way I do business,” Devlin said, “and I don’t see it being an issue.”

Devlin said that steps are being taken to increase resources for addicts in jail. An addiction group is in talks to work on recovery planning for people being discharged and organize peer group counseling.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to have some planning for inmates when they get discharged ... this is another layer we’ve never had,” Devlin said.

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at (607) 441-7221, or at ejerome@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ErinJ .

INSIDE

• Sen. Seward wins re-election. Page 3

• Full list of election results. Page 7