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August 18, 2011

Judge mandates money to Clark County Sheriff

Clark County Council, Commissioners ordered to keep paying bills

JEFFERSONVILLE — Clark County Circuit Court Judge Dan Moore issued a preliminary injunction and ordered mediation for the county to figure out a way to fund the Clark County Sheriff’s Department.

The injunction forces the Clark County Council to continue to fund operations for the department and keeps the Clark County Commissioners from denying Sheriff Danny Rodden’s payroll or claims, as they have threatened to do because the county was spending too far into a deficit.

The county has been faced with a shortfall after the certified budget order was returned in March by the Department of Local Government Finance for $7 million less than what was requested. As a result, budgets for county offices were cut 10 percent by the council.

In the petition filed by Michelle Cooper, attorney for Rodden, he requests that the county restore the $1.6 million that was cut out of his budget in March. The sheriff will need a minimum of $1.34 million to meet his payroll obligations for the remainder of this year, according to the petition.

“The sheriff sees this as a dire emergency,” Cooper said. “He does not want to be put in a position of having to close the jail facility, he has many statutory obligations ... he would be unable to meet these obligations and continue to provide the appropriate police functions — and even court-related functions that the sheriff’s department serves — if the money is depleted.”

To offer an example of how strapped the sheriff’s budget is, Cooper said after paying his Aug. 10 payroll, Rodden had a remainder of $105,000 to pay the salaries of the jail’s employees. The sheriff’s payroll, which is bi-weekly, totals more than $120,000 for only the jail’s employees.

The financial strains facing Rodden’s department were not disputed by the council or the commissioners, who were both named in the petition filed by Rodden.

“We acknowledge unless there is some kind of change in either funding or services that it will be difficult for the sheriff to continue on the services [his department] is providing now,” said Scott Lewis, attorney for the council.

Greg Fifer, attorney for the commissioners, agreed, but added his own filing to the suit submitted by Rodden. He filed a cross-claim requesting that the sheriff pay back $192,587 to the commissioners’ Cumulative Capital Development fund used in late December to cover a shortfall in the jail’s operating expenses.

Fifer added, before the ruling was delivered, that Moore did not need to make a decision at Wednesday’s hearing, because based on the information that financial consultants have been able to gather, the general fund will not be fully depleted until mid-October.

However, Moore did not delay his decision ordering the injunction and ordering mediation. He also set a date for a hearing at 10 a.m. Nov. 10 if a resolution is unable to be reached between the parties.

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