News and Tribune

January 14, 2014

Clark County juvenile detention grant in limbo

Council declines to take action on new positions requested by judge


JEFFERSONVILLE — Clark County’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative may be in line for some grant funds from the Indiana Department of Correction, but conflicting information caused the Clark County Council to decline taking action at its meeting Monday.

The funds, which total about $93,500, may be in jeopardy because they are earmarked for the creation of two positions: a JDAI coordinator, who would work out of the county’s juvenile detention facility, and a juvenile probation officer, who would work in the county’s probation department.

But the funds would be disbursed to the Clark County Community Corrections Department. Community Corrections Executive Director Steve Mason, who said he was unaware of the grant prior to its award, said that was problematic.

“In its present state the new employee would be paid partially by Community Corrections and partially by the county, requiring two payrolls to be submitted for the same individual,” according to a prepared statement from which Mason read. “The monies collected [project income] are required to be deposited in a Community Corrections account and can only be used in ‘the furtherance of the Community Corrections program.’

“Also, all of the bills will need to be processed and paid with the approval of the Community Corrections director. The splitting of responsibilities between two separate agencies looks a bit unusual and possibly similar to problems of the summer of 2013.”

But Clark County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael didn’t see it that way. She argued that the funds would ease the burden of overworked detention employees while adding an important piece with the new juvenile probation officer. The juvenile detention center currently houses 26 juvenile offenders. It has 14 beds, said Director Lyda Abell.

The council failed to find a majority when the salaries for the two new positions were put to a vote. Democrats Barbara Hollis, Susan Popp and Kevin Vissing supported the approval of the salaries for the two new positions, while Republicans Kelly Khuri, Steve Doherty and Danny Yost voted against. Council Vice President Brian Lenfert, a Republican, abstained.

“I can’t create a new position in 20 minutes of discussion,” Lenfert said.

Abell and Carmichael warned the council that failure to act quickly on the salaries would jeopardize the grant funds.

“I just didn’t believe the council would throw away $95,000,” Carmichael said.

Instead of adjourning at the end of the meeting, the council elected to recess, which will allow them to gather more information and make a decision when the council reconvenes on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

The salary requests were added to the council’s agenda Monday. The lack of notice and lack of information caused the council’s inability to act, Yost explained.

“It seems like we end up in crisis mode on a lot of these issues,” Yost said. Yost said he would not support anything he has not seen well in advance of a council meeting. Doherty and Khuri echoed his sentiment.

“I feel like we need to talk about it more and get all the information,” Doherty said.