A former Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department deputy who quit his job after being involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident has been hired as a Clarke County deputy.
According to Loudoun County Circuit Court records, Jason Michael Hough was charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident that occurred on June 19, 2011 when Hough was employed as a Loudoun County deputy sheriff.
On March 3, 2012 Hough plead guilty to an amended misdemeanor charge of “reckless driving; endangerment to life/limb/property”. Hough’s guilty plea resulted in a sentence of twelve months unsupervised probation, a ten-day driver’s license suspension and $461 in fines and court costs.
Court records indicate that alcohol was a factor in the incident.
Although Hough voluntarily resigned from his Loudoun County law enforcement position, Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper says that Hough’s driving record was not a deterrent in the decision to hire him as a Clarke County deputy.
“I consider Clarke County lucky to have him as a deputy,” Roper said. “Deputy Hough is doing a wonderful job for us and I have no doubt that at some point in time he will save somebody’s life – he’s that kind of deputy.”
However, the decision to hire an experienced deputy despite a recent driving conviction involving alcohol does raise questions about the County’s ability to attract and retain experienced professionals given recent “flat-line” budget decisions.
Over the past year, Roper and his department have had to adjust to a number of challenges imposed by budget restrictions. Earlier this year, two experienced Clarke County deputies – one a watch supervisor – left the department to take higher paying positions in nearby jurisdictions. Similarly, Roper’s request to replace several aging police cruisers was indefinitely postponed during this year’s budget deliberations. From a more critical public safety perspective, the budget restrictions have resulted in several instances over the past few months when there has been no Clarke County deputy on duty in the County.
With neighboring Loudoun and Frederick County’s public employee pay scale significantly higher than that of Clarke County, Clarke County teachers and law enforcement personnel looking for higher wages have only a short drive in order to gain more money. Not only does the salary differential result in a continual drain of Clarke County employees, the employees also take along any training and experience that they gained at the expense of Clarke County taxpayers.
But given that a Clarke County deputy’s salary is less than that of a comparably experienced Loudoun County deputy, Hough’s addition to the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department provided a way to add an experienced officer and stay within the County’s budget constraints.
Even so, Roper says that personnel budget challenges played no role in his decision to hire Hough.
“I make the best choice for the most qualified person I can hire based on our hiring process,” Roper said. “If the job candidate accepts the salary that we have to offer that’s great – if not we move on to the next person. We had several qualified people for the position but fortunately we didn’t have to go beyond Jason Hough.”
Deputy Hough did not respond to questions related to this story.