Sheriff Frank Resigns for Move to Virginia

Front Page / Aug. 17, 2000 12:00am EDT

Orange County Sheriff Sam Frank, one of six sheriffs who succeeded in challenging the Brady Law before the Supreme Court in 1997, is turning in his badge and moving to Virginia.

Frank, who has served as the county’s sheriff since 1991, said this week he is resigning, effective Sept. 1, to join his wife, who has accepted a county administrator post in Craig County, Va.

Since Frank is leaving in the middle of a four-year term, Gov. Howard Dean will appoint an interim sheriff to fill the post until the 2002 election, Dean’s press secretary Sue Allen said yesterday.

Frank has recommended his chief deputy, Captain Dennis McClure, as his replacement.

McClure, who has worked with Frank since 1991, "has my highest endorsement," said Frank this week.

Allen said that since Frank was elected on the Republican ticket, the Orange County Republican Committee has been asked to submit to the governor the names of up to three individuals for the post.

Dean, said Allen, will make the appointment—most likely from that list of candidates—as soon as possible.

During his 10 years as sheriff, Frank has been active in legislative issues at both the state and federal level. When asked this week about his accomplishments, however, Frank cited first of all his work with "kids and senior citizens."

Frank, who started up Orange County’s DARE program, a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program for elementary students, regularly led DARE classes at several schools, including Brookfield Elementary School.

Each time he led a course, he explained this week, he would be in the school "at least an hour every week for at least 17 weeks and sometimes more."

"I’ve been known," he added, "to go on classroom trips."

One of the young people Frank has been visiting with, informally, over the past several years—a boy who has had some difficulties at home and school—gave Frank a hug and said "I’m gonna miss you," the sheriff said.

Moments like that, or having "kids call you and just chat," says Frank, "are very rewarding and you don’t get very many rewards in this business."

Frank said he also worked to reach out to the elderly, and said he felt "the only thing I failed at was getting those two groups—the kids and the elderly—together more."

Frank said his department has also worked to prevent domestic abuse—and to assist its victims.

A few years ago, Frank found grant money to purchase cell phones for women who had filed relief from abuse orders, and he also found funding for a special, non-threatening "interview room" for the victims of child abuse.

The child interview room, at the Sheriff’s Department, is hooked up via video cameras with the nearby courthouse, "so you don’t have to put kids in front of 12 adults" in the courtroom.

Frank said he remains "very proud" of his Brady Law challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank, along with five other county sheriffs, argued that the portion of the law that required them to conduct background checks on would-be gun purchasers violated the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment "reserves" for the states powers not expressly delegated to the federal government.

The sheriffs said the 1993 Brady Law violated that separation of powers by requiring county employees to conduct the checks without supplying any payment for the work. The justices agreed, 5-4, with the sheriffs in July, 1997.

Frank, who has been in law enforcement since 1973—he also was a deputy sheriff, a Randolph police officer, and a prison guard—said this week that it may be time for a new line of work.

He said before he seeks a new job in Virginia, he plans on building a new house on land he and his wife have purchased. The property, he said, is near Roanoke, in a part of Virginia "that looks a lot like Vermont but spring starts in February."

Frank and his wife, Elizabeth Frank, formerly the Williamstown town manager, have sold their Brookfield home, Frank said.

—By Sandy Cooch


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