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Sunday, May 1, 2016

County Council says no for discretionary fund proposal

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lee Reberger
The Clay County Council shot down a proposal to create a new fund Monday night.

During the meeting, the council conducted the second reading of an ordinance, which would have created a Prosecutor's Discretionary Fund.

The fund would have collected payment offsets through community service programs, along with a newly proposed option of allowing first-time offenders, who committed a single non-violent, non-victim misdemeanor crime, to buyout their community service time at a price of $10 per hour.

At its April meeting, the council voted 4-2-1 to accept the first reading, but after a month to think about it, some council members changed their minds.

"I think this would be sending the wrong message to the community," council member Chip Hoskins said. "No matter how minute the offense, I don't think it is right that they could pay their way out of it."

Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger said the buyout option would probably bring in more funding to the county than what is being done currently regarding fines.

"The judges rarely go above the $10 minimum fine upon convictions, which has to be paid along with the $164 in court costs," he said. "With the buyout, if an offender pays for 16 hours of community service that they have been sentenced to serve, that would be $160 brought in, along with the cost of going through pre-trial diversion."

Council member Rita Rothrock added, after much thought on the matter, creating additional funding for the county would be a benefit.

"If we can collect something from the offenders through community service, whether it be from sweeping the streets or funding from a buyout, it helps the county," she said.

Council member Brian Wyndham said he had spoken to Reberger in detail about the fund and buyout, but disagreed with the rate and the potential of getting out of the entirety of service.

"Maybe we could make it where offenders could only buyout half of their community service, or we could increase the rate to where it makes an impact on them," Wyndham said. "However, most of the residents I have spoke to seem to be against it, and have a moral objection to the buyout."

"We're all aware that the case load in the courts has grown a ton in the past 10 years," Council President Mike McCullough added. "But, I'm just not sure if this would be the best thing for the taxpayers."

Rothrock made a motion to approve the creation of the Prosecutor's Discretionary Fund, which was seconded by Larry Moss, but they were the only two in favor of passage as the other five council members -- Hoskins, Wyndham, McCullough, Toni Carter and Steve Withers -- voted in opposition, killing the motion and ordinance.

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

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I think the right decision was made. Thanks to those who voted this bad idea down. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

-- Posted by bigfoot1 on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 6:28 PM

I am glad the council members decided against this. A lot of older law breakers are doing so because their parents always bought their way out of trouble.

-- Posted by Dagnabbit on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 7:11 PM

Have to agree with the decision, it is the loss of time that would be a deterrent not the loss of $10 per hour of community service. Even though most community service is menial work that would pay only minimum wage if hired out, it is the taking of a person's "free" time to do it that is the punishment that is assigned by the court for breaking the law. The court has the option of a higher fine in most cases, as stated in the article, and the offender should not be given the option to override the ruling of the court.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 7:12 PM

I disagree. We are talking about targeting people that are first time offenders of non-violent crimes. I think it would be acceptable to charge them more than $10.00 an hour to buyout, say $15.00 to $18.00. Let's face it, with gas being over $4.00 a gallon hardly anyone has extra money so it could really hurt. I don't know about you, but it really gets my attention when I don't have enough money to eat or buy gas to go to work to earn a living. The reality is, things will only get more expensive.

This "bad idea" would have collected more money for the county and still paid to hire someone at minimum wage to "sweep the streets." If gas gets much higher there may be many of us looking for minimum wage jobs to augment our incomes.

-- Posted by My opinion counts on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 8:55 AM

I've only received one traffic citation in my life from a police officer. I was going a little too fast on Poplar Street on the east side of Terre Haute, which is not difficult to do. But I was going above the posted speed limit and received my ticket.

When I went to the Vigo County Courthouse to pay my fine, I was told by the clerk that it was "this amount" for the ticket, but if I paid "an additional amount" it would not appear on my record, and thus my auto insurance company would never know of my indescretion.

Isn't this a "legal" form of bribery?

I paid the lesser amount and took my chances. But I saw this as the same thing as what was being considered here. That money can buy you out of your consequences of your actions. I'm glad that our council understands the ramifications of that, even if we would have benefitted financially.

By the way, is my experience in Vigo County one that would happen in Clay County as well? I don't want to find out for myself.

-- Posted by ClayCountyGuy on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 9:22 AM

The answer to your question is yes. The speeding ticket policy is effective in Clay County and has been for years.

I see no difference between the first time non-violent offender buyout and the speeding ticket "buyout."

-- Posted by My opinion counts on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 10:48 AM

re: My Opinion Counts. The fund the prosecutor was attempting to set up was not an effort to raise funds for the county general fund. This was to be a fund for the prosecutor to spend at his discretion. This money was not going to be spent to create jobs or act as a legal deterrent to misdemeanor crime. It was a cash cow operation. The ticket deferral fund has been referenced as a similar program to the one proposed. I hope we are all smart enough to see the difference between a traffic ticket for speeding or other minor traffic violation and the commission of a misdemeanor crime. The term misdemeanor non-violent crime covers alot of territory. Also the prosecutor already the deferral fund to spend at his discretion. That's right when one buys his way out of a ticket that money already goes into the deferral discretionary fund that is at the prosecutors sole disposal. This system already in place generates a great deal of money for the prosecutor to utilize on whatever he sees fit. If the prosecutor needs another source of funding perhaps he needs to do a better job of explaining why to the residents of the county.

-- Posted by bigfoot1 on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 11:39 AM

re: bigfoot1. When I said, "I see no difference..." I was referring to the general principle of "buyout" programs.

I understand the original plan for the distribution of the money and I also don't agree that it should go to the prosecutor's office. It would be nice if the money could go into a newly created fund directed towards something helpful to the citizens of Clay County. As I suggested earlier, the money could be used to hire people that actually want and need to work since the proposed community service jobs would still need to be performed.

In regard to your statement "I hope we are all smart enough to see the difference between a traffic ticket for speeding or other minor traffic violation and the commission of a misdemeanor crime. The term misdemeanor non-violent crime covers alot of territory." I would like to think we can surely trust our judicial system to be smart enough to understand the different degree of the offending misdemeanor and meter justice accordingly. Certainly offering a blanket "buyout" program for every offense would be ignorant. However, in CERTAIN instances the "buyout" option could prove to be beneficial on several fronts. This is just a thought on the general principle of "buyout" from a different perspective....my opinion.

-- Posted by My opinion counts on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 1:01 PM

I personally and professionally agree with the decision to disallow the deferral program and the message it would send. CAB

-- Posted by CAB (Concerns About Brazil) on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 1:45 PM

I see the good and bad of both sides, but have to agree that I'm not fond of going forward with this idea for the SOLE purpose of a "discretionary fund" used by the Prosecutor.

It would be nice if everyone with a FT job could have a 'discretionary fund' at our disposal, Mr. Reberger, but that's not a reality. It bothers me that you would even suggest such a thing - and especially to make it seem like something good for the community as a whole. Shame on you.

-- Posted by Emmes on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 11:54 AM

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