The County Commission granted an unexpected $300,000 request by Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean on Wednesday.
Dean has said he needs money from the county general fund to pay personnel expenses, citing a revenue shortfall — not "a mismanagement or budgetary issue" — as the reason. Criminal Court clerk offices pay employee salaries from a portion of felony-related fees they collect and turn over to the state. The money will be used in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Commissioner Tim Boyd and Dean traded plenty of barbs before commissioners voted 9-0 to approve the request.
"I'm extremely disappointed that this is not considered by you as a budgetary issue," said Boyd, stating that similar circumstances would be considered "mismanagement of funds" in the private sector.
Boyd discounted several factors Dean has cited as underlying causes of the revenue shortfall, including difficulties in collecting court-ordered felony fines from criminals.
Nothing has changed concerning the nature of the office's clientele since Dean was elected in 2014 and neither did his office indicate a shortfall in its submitted budget for 2015-2016, Boyd said.
"I would have much preferred your budget to include a $300,000 shortfall instead of seeing us have to vote on a $300,000 payroll subsidy," he said.
He asked Dean if he had considered an across-the-board payroll decrease as a possible solution to the revenue problem.
Dean replied he did not, but that his office was $53,000 below its projected payroll budget of $2.59 million.
"The revenues have not come in," Dean said. "This is not a management problem."
Boyd asked Dean if he anticipated a revenue shortfall in the upcoming budget year.
"Absolutely," said Dean. "We're asking for the appropriation on the front end rather than wait until the end of the year. So, at that time, we'll have the conversation whether it really is good to ask for it ahead of time, or when we need it."
Dean also called out Boyd for sending private texts to other commissioners concerning the matter prior to the vote on the request. In one text, he calculated that a 7.8 percent salary cut would have reduced Criminal Court clerk office personnel expenses by $300,000.
"I wanted to shed some sunshine on the issue," said Dean regarding salary information he sent in a letter to commissioners. "If there was going to be a deliberation towards a decision about my budget, I wanted to make sure I informed the commission."
After the meeting, Boyd said he did not violate any open meeting laws because no deliberations took place by text.
"I shared facts via text with the other commissioners," he said. "That is not deliberating. The insinuation that we violated the Sunshine Law is totally incorrect."
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org.