County, Sheriff Wrestle Over Budget, Transfer

county commission, sheriffIt looks like the Escambia County Commission might not be able to rely on the sheriff’s internal service fund money to pay for the transfer of jail operations. Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan informed the commission today that he intends to pay out employees’ leave time as they leave his employ and enter the county’s.

“I’d like to think I’m a fairly good judge of body language—there will be no money,” said Commissioner Steven Barry.

Yesterday, commissioners informally and unanimously voted to reclaim money currently residing in the sheriff’s and clerk of court’s internal service funds to fund the transfer of jail operations. Interim County Administrator George Touart originally intended to fund the transfer with $2.6 million previously set aside for employee cost-of-living increases.

Officials with the sheriff’s office said they were relying on county policy and past practice when determining the payouts. Commissioner Grover Robinson pushed to pass a motion that would revise the board’s policy regarding leave-time payouts—he suggested the county policy reflect that only legally-required leave-time, as per the Fair Labor Standards Act, be paid out.

Budget Director Amy Lavoy noted that the funds in question would be under the sheriff’s care until the transfer happened with the roll of the fiscal year in October. She said the sheriff would need to agree to keep the money in place and forgo payouts.
“Unless there is an agreement all the way around, there will be nothing left in this fund,” Lavoy told the board.

Commissioner Wilson Robertson asked the sheriff if he would “be willing to retain that $2.5 million.” Morgan replied that he would “be fiscally responsible,” while also meeting the “obligations to my employees.”

“What funds are not expended, I will be more than happy, as the law requires, to return it to the county commission,” the sheriff said.

Robinson eventually dropped his policy-revision motion, saying he would bring it back during tomorrow’s commission meeting. The commission is also set to formalize its previous decision to use the internal service funds for the jail transfer.

Touart told the commissioners that if Morgan used the money prior to it being transferred back to the county, he would cut the sheriff’s budget by a corresponding amount.

“It’s very simple to me,” he said.