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Suit against commission dismissed

A Montgomery County circuit judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis against the Chilton County Commission at the request of both parties.

The original lawsuit, filed in June in Chilton County Circuit Court, claimed the commission did not adequately budget the Sheriff’s Department for 2007-08, causing essential services in the department to go under-funded. The suit named the county as a whole in addition to individual commissioners.

The case was assigned to Montgomery County Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey after local circuit judges turned it down due to possible conflict of interest.

“Me and the commission were able to agree on some things,” Davis said. “I felt like they listened to the needs of the department and responded in a fair way. I didn’t get all I wanted, but I am happy with the budget.”

The biggest issue was how to fund new cars. Davis said the department had 20 vehicles with more than 100,000 miles on them.

The commission agreed to put $90,000 in a line item for 10 new vehicles to be funded over a 3-year lease or payment plan.

“This will get all our patrol deputies in a reliable vehicle,” Davis said.

Other concerns with last year’s budget were overtime and fuel costs, but the main issue was that the sheriff’s budget had decreased from the previous year. While all departments faced cuts this year, both sides were able to give a little.

“I can work with anybody as long as they are open-minded,” Davis said. “I was not getting that a year ago.”

The budget for 2008-09 allocates $2 million for the Sheriff’s Department and $1.6 million for the Jail.

The sheriff had initially requested $2 million for the Sheriff’s Department last year but was given a figure of $1.56 million, which reflected a $400,000 shortfall from the previous year. Because of ongoing needs, however, this amount was never taken out of the budget, Commissioner Allen Caton said.

“We worked together,” he said. “We’re giving him every penny we can give him.”

Caton credited Davis, the commissioners, and the Commission Office staff for their cooperation in coming up with a plan.

“The sheriff and commission are in their positions for one reason only – to serve the people. If we’re not going to do that, we might as well go home,” he said.

–Scott Mims can be reached at scott.mims@clantonadvertiser.com.