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August 8, 2011

Clark County budget battle continues: Sheriff’s commissary fund used to keep other county offices afloat

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — Pursuing the lawsuit

In order to fund his operations through the remainder of the year, Rodden is looking into filing a lawsuit similar to the mandate issued by the Clark County courts.

“There’s a state mandate statute,” said Commissioners Attorney Greg Fiferx. “There is a general mandate when an official fails to fulfill their duty — which the county council’s duty is to properly budget and appropriate sufficient funds to run government. When they fail, [Rodden] can mandate.”

He said there is less legal precedent for an office outside the courts to mandate for additional funds, but it can be done.

“Since there are statutes that say what [Rodden] has to do, he’s going to have a much stronger case,” Fifer said.

Before he can pursue the mandate he must attempt to secure funding through other sources.

The first step in that was the denial of a $1.5 million request presented to the Clark County Commissioners on Thursday. Rodden plans to present the same request to the Clark County Council at a meeting today, and if it is denied again, he plans to file the mandate as quickly as possible. He said the lawsuit that he would be seeking would be used to cover the employee salaries this year.

“It’s $1.5 million we’re short in payroll,” Rodden said. “That’s just salary. That’s nothing to do with operations. That’s why I’m going to have to pursue some litigation.”

When the council prepared the sheriff’s budget for this year, Rodden said they may have overlooked the amount of money that was spent outside the general fund in last year’s budget. More than $1.07 million was paid at the end of 2010 to balance the sheriff’s budget. The funding came from LOIT, leftover money in the general fund and the commissioners’ cumulative capital fund.

Even though Rodden said he believed a mistake was made when the council underfunded the levy in 2007, the state is being unreasonable in believing the county can operate on the budget it was given. With a total certified budget amount of $11.8 million returned to the council, there was no way to pay for the county’s operational expenses and the sheriff’s full $9.5 million requested budget out of the general fund.

“It’s got to be fixed on the state level,” Rodden said. “If the council would do everything in their power, and I don’t know that they’ve done that yet ... the employees and the office holders would be more inclined to work with them.”

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