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December 11, 2012

Funding questions linger for Jeffersonville City Court

Judge, clerk both eye control of probation funds

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — Audit not allowed

Pierce said he was offended by the request and the tactics taken in asking for a third-party audit of his finances.

“If it wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable,” he said. “I think a line was crossed, it was a line of decency. I can’t believe not one attorney in that room knew that it was against statute,” he said of seeking a third-party audit. “They had to know it was inappropriate.”

Charlie Pride, supervisor of cities, towns and libraries with the State Board of Accounts, agreed that the council did not have the authority to seek an outside audit of the court’s finances. He said the board of accounts is the auditing body for governmental entities and the performs an annual audit of the city’s finances.

Pierce pointed to state statute IC5-11-1-7, which limits who can perform audits of government units to the state examiner, who also may use outside private examiners.

“At no point did one of the three municipal attorneys in that meeting stand up and say guys, ‘this is contrary to state statute,’” Pierce said.

And it is not expected that the state board will have an examiner take a special look at the court’s finances before any duties are transferred.

“We would consider that a duplication of services,” Pride said.

He added the state board would rely on its annual audit.

As for who would be allowed to retain control of PUF funds, Pride said it is not specifically spelled out in state law who controls the fund, as it lists “the probation department or the clerk of a city.”

However, he added “that would be our recommendation that the court would decide whether or not the collect the probation user fee.”

Paying for employees

Pierce explained his desire to hold onto control of the PUF funds was because it is how he funds several salaries for employees in his office.

“A lot of my employees are hybrid employees; that means they get paid through PUF salary and also general fund salary,” he said.

He added if the employees are moved under the clerk’s purview it may end up costing the city more.

“If a probation department employee gets moved to another part of the city, it’s going to cost the city approximately $100,000 over the next three years,” Pierce said.

He explained instead of the costs being covered under PUF funds — which are costs paid by those who have had a judgment against them — they would go into the general fund budget.

Even with the confusion of who will take over what duties, Pierce said he is still willing to try and work out a deal.

“At this point, I’m still willing to negotiate,” he said. “She’s still the clerk. I don’t know why this got so blown out of proportion other than poor communication.”

Wilder said the two sides are scheduled to meet today with hopes of avoiding a lawsuit.

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