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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Council considers new fund

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lee Reberger
An ordinance for the creation of a new county fund was brought Monday night for the consideration of the Clay County Council.

During the meeting, Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger explained the purpose of the potential Prosecutor's Discretionary Fund.

"At this time, the Pre-Trial Diversion and Deferral funds are not supporting themselves," he said. "This fund would consist of deposits taken in from community service offsets."

Reberger added judges have recently allowed those charged with a single misdemeanor the option of buying out their community service time at a rate of $10 per hour, if they meet the requirements, and those monies would be placed into the fund.

"In order to have the option of buying out the hours, it has to be a first-time offender with one misdemeanor charge, and the offense must have been non-violent and be non-victim," Reberger told The Brazil Times. "The offender must meet all the criteria, so if an individual has a possession of marijuana charge with a criminal mischief, which are both misdemeanors, they would not qualify because it is more than one charge."

According to the ordinance, the monies in the fund may only be expended for law enforcement purposes and does not revert back to the General Fund at the end of any given year.

Reberger told the council part of the reason the Deferral Fund is struggling is because less of the money taken in is allowed to stay local.

"In recent years, the state has been requiring more of the dollars being brought into the Deferral Fund be sent to the state, meaning there is continually less staying in the county fund," he said. "Before we requested this fund to be created, we compared it to what Putnam, Parke and Vermillion counties, which have a similar fund, were doing."

Brian Wyndham
Council member Brian Wyndham said he was unsure of the benefit of allowing offenders to pay their way out of meeting the community service portion of their sentencing.

"I'm concerned with the message we are sending by allowing them the option of buying out their sentence," Wyndham said.

Reberger reiterated the option is only for first-time misdemeanor offenders who meet all the criteria, similar to those who opt to take the pre-trial diversion route.

The council attempted to suspend the rules to pass the ordinance to create the fund on the first reading, but did not vote in unanimous approval, which is required to do so. The council voted 4-2-1 with Wyndham and Toni Carter voting in opposition to the motion, while Council President Mike McCullough abstained.

With the motion to pass on the first reading rejected, the ordinance will be up for second reading and possible final action during the council's May meeting.

Meanwhile, Clay County Commissioner Paul Sinders updated the council on the status of potential repairs or replacement of the chiller at the Clay County Courthouse.

"We have had the compressor evaluated, and it was determined the anticipated life expectancy for it is about another 15 years," Sinders said. "After talking with the other commissioners, we decided it would be best to save the county as much money as possible and replace just the one coil that has gone bad. Who knows, the other coils could go out in two months, or last two-three years, but we feel at this time we need to spend taxpayer dollars as wisely as possible."

He added the estimated cost of replacing the coil should be $8,000-$9,000, which is much less than the $60,000 estimated to replace the entire unit.

The council gave Sinders permission to obtain an exact quote from Havel, Indianapolis, which is under contract for maintenance at the courthouse and Clay County Justice Center, in order to allow the council to know how much of an additional appropriation would be needed, as well as providing the option of setting up a special meeting to approve the monies for the work to be done before warmer weather sets in for good.

In other business during Monday's meeting of the Clay County Council:

* An additional appropriation of $3,000 was approved out of the Surveyor's Cornerstone Fund for contract services in hiring a summer intern from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology,

* An amended salary ordinance of $15 an hour for an office assistant in the Adult Probation Office was approved on its second reading. The adjusted salary was for an assistant while one of the employees, who has since returned, was on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act,

* The second reading of a separate amended salary ordinance through the Local Health Maintenance Fund was approved at $13.13 per hour for secretary training, as the current secretary will be leaving June 9 to use their remaining vacation days and officially retiring July 1, and

* Suspended the rules to pass another amended salary ordinance through the Prosecutor's Incentive Fund on the first reading. The salary rate was set at $14.15 an hour on straight time and $21.23 per hour on overtime for administrative assistants working on a state mandate project to update, automate and maintain current records in the Prosecutor's Office. The rates were approved for a total of 177 hours of work.

The next meeting of the Clay County Council will be 6 p.m., Monday, May 2, in the Commissioners' Courtroom at the Clay County Courthouse.

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Way to go Mr. Wyndham and Ms. Carter. No reason to ramrod such an ordinance through in one reading. McCullough, take a stand. You were elected to do a job, now do it.

-- Posted by BWare on Wed, Apr 6, 2011, at 8:31 AM

DANG! Administrative Assistants working a state mandate project make $14.15/hour in BRAZIL??? WOW!

I need a new job!!

-- Posted by Emmes on Wed, Apr 6, 2011, at 11:57 AM

Yes, good job Wyndham & Carter!

Why are we sending the message that if you get sentenced to Community Service you only have to DO the service if you can't pay to get out of it?? First offense, victim or not, that is still morally wrong. And this community can always use more work getting things cleaned up :)

-- Posted by MoralsOrMoney? on Wed, Apr 6, 2011, at 12:28 PM

Yea I think I have a problem with this as well. A lot of what I have observed in the community is that even before problems have escalated to get law enforcement involved, family members of offender are already "bailing" out individuals, are in denial, or aren't addressing the real problem the person has by getting them help but by pushing an EASY button.

Community service is there to learn a lesson...If daddy or other buddy there to pay the price for what offender did, that person will never learn the lesson. Not only should the person have to do the service, but pay a fee as well to help cover the cost of administering the program and keeping up with paperwork. Just my opinion.

Have a good day.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Apr 6, 2011, at 1:19 PM

Prosecutor Reberger first, thank you for the job you do. In your example, of the Pre-Trial Diversion and Deferral funds you stated, "... if an individual has a possession of marijuana charge with a criminal mischief, which are both misdemeanors, they would not qualify because it is more than one charge."

**** What if your office accepted a plea of guilty to the more severe charge and the second charge dropped, would they qualify? I think this is a BAD idea based on the message it sends. If you have the money, you can BUY your way out.

I believe the offender should be REQUIRED to perform at least half the community service. Mr. Prosecutor, would a suspended misdemeanor sentence, with a maximum length of probation, with community service (half eligible for the Deferral Program) as a condition of that probation serve the same purpose. Should any violation of the probation occur, then revocation of that probation and implementation of the suspended sentence would send a very powerful message both loud and clear.

Mr. Wyndham, Ms. Carter and Mr. McCullough thank you for your wisdom in allowing time for this ordinance to be considered and maybe modified before it becomes law. If it is the best that can be, then it will adopted otherwise it will be modified or scraped. CAB

-- Posted by CAB (Concerns About Brazil) on Wed, Apr 6, 2011, at 1:22 PM

I agree with all the above......we need to think about this one. Gee, have money? No problem. It's like a "get out of jail" free card even for the first offender with one misdemeanor. I would be very interested to see the rate of recurrance in the counties he listed that already use this program. Maybe it would work but maybe it won't. We would definitely need more information like what the other counties experienced with this program and how much income did it generate for them versus the cost of having somebody on community servicec....etc. More research is needed in my mind and presented to the council for consideration instead of just his word. Something to think about.

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Wed, Apr 6, 2011, at 5:21 PM

While it is understandable that funding is needed, even with the restrictions set to be eligible to pay instead of perform community service AS SENTENCED by a court, the option for a person to reduce their own sentence to what amounts to a fine sets a poor precedent and, in my opinion, undermines the power of the court. Should the court have determined that the appropriate sentence for the infraction committed was a monetary fine, then the court would have made that the sentence.

A note: There are offender-paid fees associated with being sentenced to community service to help defray the expense of the program.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Thu, Apr 7, 2011, at 12:26 AM

Thank you Brian Wyndham and Toni Carter for not being just another "yes" man/woman and rubber stamping whatever the elected official wants. While I believe that most county officials run their offices in a frugal manner, some do not. It's time to make the hard decisions and start saying no.

-- Posted by Mumbler on Thu, Apr 7, 2011, at 9:19 AM

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