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December 11, 2012

Funding questions linger for Jeffersonville City Court

Judge, clerk both eye control of probation funds


JEFFERSONVILLE — Separation of powers?

At last week’s meeting, Conlin’s attorney, Larry Wilder, said a compromise was offered that would allow Pierce’s employees to remain in the city court office, but report to the clerk.

However, Pierce said he was opposed to the compromise, because it would create liability concerns for his office.

“I just think it’s dangerous when you’re combining two entire departments,” he said. “I think it’s dangerous to have up to $750,000 changing hands when you have ... two different employees with two different staffs and two different bosses. I think that’s a great liability and responsibility to put on anyone.

“[It’s] good business is to avoid it.”

He said the court normally collects between $200,000 to $250,000 annually in PUF money.

And up until June, Pierce said he and Conlin had an agreement was she would be collecting court costs and ordinance violation fees and his office would continue collecting PUF money.

According to a proposed lawsuit sent to Pierce, “Conlin would assert that a dispute exists as to which body of government shall collect those probation user fees as defined by Indiana statute. Moreover, Conlin would asset that a dispute exists at to whether the clerk and the city should receive a portion of those funds.”

A proposed resolution that outlines all authority to collect fees lies with the clerk was first introduced at an October city council meeting, but was tabled.

Wilder said in an interview Monday said he didn’t know if his client was averse to maintaining that structure. He added that the only thing Conlin was seeking in asking for the audit and threatening the lawsuit was to be certain of the clerk’s duties and the court’s finances.

“She just wants the opportunity to have oversight, because she’s responsible for it,” Wilder said. “Judge Pierce perceives this as an attack on him, but it’s not.”

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