By MATT KOESTERS
The Clark County Probation and Supervision Department’s home incarceration program purchased 28 new ankle monitoring bracelets, but the funds to make the purchase remain unapproved by the county council.
The council voted unanimously to table a request from probation to approve spending $10,000 in grant funds from the Indiana Judicial Center’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to buy the ankle bracelets, the second time it has done so in as many months.
County council members asked Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford why more monitoring equipment was being purchased for the department’s new juvenile home incarceration program when the department is accruing thousands of dollars in shelf fees on equipment it already owns. According to invoices obtained from the auditor’s office, the probation department spent more than $14,000 on shelf fees in 2013.
Ford responded that the equipment being purchased is replacing old and outdated equipment.
“I admit, I’m guilty of relying on my people that said no, we need more equipment, we need new equipment,” Ford said. “I relied on his representation to me that we need more equipment and new equipment and approved the purchase.”
The county was paying OmniLink Systems 80 cents per day per unit for inactive monitoring devices. Ford said as of Monday, that number has been re-negotiated to 25 cents per unit per day, but that the county will not be reimbursed for the days it was charged 80 cents per day.
Ford apologized to the council for telling it at the April council meeting that the shelf fees were 30 cents per day.
“That’s what I was told,” Ford said. “It turns out it’s not. It’s 80 cents a day.”
Ford said an employee in probation provided him with that figure, and that that person had gotten it from an OmniLink employee.
Council President Barbara Hollis expressed concern that the OmniLink invoices were not subject to scrutiny.
“The person that runs the [home incarceration] program isn’t the person that pays the invoices,” said Circuit Court presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael.
Invoices obtained via open records request from the auditor’s office for another story about home incarceration show that the shelf fees are 80 cents, and are signed by Ford regularly.
Councilman Steve Doherty asked why the department needed more bracelets, to which Ford replied that probation keeps about 100 in inventory. The department has 47 adults and 20 juveniles it is monitoring, Ford said.
Councilman Kevin Vissing initially motioned to approve the request to appropriate the grant funds, but the motion died for lack of second. Doherty motioned to deny the request, which was seconded by Councilwoman Kelly Khuri, but that motion failed, 3-4, with only Councilman Danny Yost joining Doherty and Khuri voting in favor. After that motion failed, Doherty’s motion to table succeeded unanimously.
ROSS GETS HIS RAISE
For months, the Clark County Commissioners have been trying to get the county council to approve a change in title and salary for Operations Manager Jim Ross, and for months the council has been tabling the request. The back-and-forth came to an end Monday.
The council approved a change in title for Ross that changes his status from a non-exempt to an exempt employee, which means Ross will no longer be eligible to collect overtime pay. Ross’ salary increases from $35,000 per year to $45,000 per year, including longevity pay.
Commissioner Rick Stephenson appeared in place of Commissioners President Jack Coffman to represent the board for the first time. He argued that Ross had saved the county $2 million in the last year by recommending cost-saving changes to county projects.
“You’ve all told me he’s well worth it,” Stephenson told the council. “How would you feel if you made less money than your employees?”
Stephenson initially requested $47,000 for Ross, which he said was well below what highway superintendents in Indiana earn, on average.
Stephenson said the commissioners did not need an additional appropriation for Ross’ new salary, as the highway department was losing three employees to retirement that will not be replaced.
The vote was 4-3 in favor of giving Ross the new salary and job description, with Khuri, Doherty and Councilwoman Susan Popp opposed.
“I’m sure he deserves it,” Doherty said after the vote. “But I just don’t feel right saying no to [raises for] all the departments.”
Stephenson said he wants to give all highway employees a 3 percent raise with money saved through attrition, and called on other office holders to look for savings so that raises can be given in other departments.
“If other office holders want their people to have more money, they need to find it in their budgets,” Stephenson said.