Sheriff sues County Commission

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sheriff Kevin Davis filed a lawsuit against the Chilton County Commission in Circuit Court yesterday claiming that the Sheriff’s Department was not adequately budgeted this year.

All seven county commissioners and the county itself are named in the suit.

In the suit, Davis is asking the court for a Writ of Mandamus to force the commission to fund the sheriff’s original budget and grant injunctive relief in an expedited manner to aid with the sheriff’s funding problems.

“The defendants (the commission) owe to the plaintiff … a duty of funding the plaintiff’s budget request,” the lawsuit states.

Commission chairman Allen Caton said he and the other commissioners were “disappointed” by the lawsuit.

“If he sues the commission, he sues everybody in the county. I hope he realizes that,” Caton said. “The commission represents the people of the county.”

Caton said Davis had been threatening a lawsuit for several months, but that it still came as somewhat of a surprise.

Davis said the reason why he has filed the lawsuit is because he was forced to protect the safety of the county’s residents.

Last year, Davis asked the county to budget $2 million for the Sheriff’s Department and $1.78 million for the County Jail, but the commission only budgeted $1.56 million for the Sheriff’s Department and $1.46 million for the Jail. The county’s total budget is $16 million.

The complaint also states that the commission must budget essential services for the Sheriff’s Department according to state law.

Because the budget was cut, Davis said he will be forced to lay off deputies and other personnel in addition to parking cars as soon as July 31.

“We’re still going to have the same amount of call,” Davis said. “If we have to lay off employees, then that will slow our response to calls, and the county will not be as safe. Cutting services is just not an option.”

Last month, the commission asked Davis to transfer money from line items in his budget to help make up the difference for now, and when the department ran out of money, the county would borrow money to make up the difference.

Davis, however, said there is no money left in line items to transfer. As of June 19, Davis said his department is over-budget in at least seven line items. Salaries are also at 83.6 percent of budget, and no money has been budgeted for overtime.

“You’re going to have overtime when you are working in law enforcement,” Davis said. “There’s no money to transfer in our department.”

Caton noted that the commission borrowed $400,000 last year to fund the Sheriff’s Department. He indicated that the county cannot afford to spend taxpayers’ money on a lawsuit.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “The commission has tried to work with him.”

The case has been assigned to Judge John Bush.