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December 11, 2012

Funding questions linger for Jeffersonville City Court

Judge, clerk both eye control of probation funds

JEFFERSONVILLE — A third-party audit requested of the Jeffersonville City Court will not move forward, but a lawsuit against the court might.

The Jeffersonville City Council approved moving forward on an audit at its meeting last week that would examine city court funds before the City Clerk would assume control of the court’s duties.

As part of the city’s transition from a third-class to a second-class city, the court’s role in collecting fines, fees and maintaining records moves under the control of the city clerk. However, a discrepancy still exists on who has control over Probationary User Fee, or PUF funds.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts agreed that Jeffersonville City Clerk Vicki Conlin should take over the duties of the clerk of the city court following the move to a second-class city, and issued a letter to that effect, which was presented at the council meeting.

It’s a change that City Court Judge Ken Pierce said he will not dispute, nor challenge.

“There is no dispute whatsoever that she is the clerk,” he said. “Now, there is some question about what the clerk’s duties are.”

According to the letter from the State Board of Accounts, “the only time that the judge may act as a clerk of the city court or appoint a clerk is in a third-class city. In a second-class city, this provision does not apply.”

“I agree with the State Board of Accounts opinion,” Pierce said. “My original proposal was exactly what the state board of accounts proposes here.”

He said under his original plan, the court would hand control of all duties over to the city clerk, except for control of the court’s PUF fund.

Pierce said that the state board of accounts allows for, and states in its letter, that the court retains the rights to the probationary funds it collects and does not have to cede control to the city clerk.

“In an audit of city court in a second-class city, we would take the position that the duties listed above should be carried out by the city clerk, subject to a situation where the statute clearly indicates that another party, such as the probation department, is to perform the task,” according to the state board of accounts letter.

Pierce said he is against relinquishing control of the court’s PUF funds or allowing a clerk’s office employee to work in the court office to manage the PUF funds.

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