Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 31, 2014

Two opt out of budget discussion

By Linda Wenger | Feb 11, 2013

Supervisors Jack Seward Jr. and Bob Yoder rose from their seats and put their coats on and left the Board of Supervisors Room in the county courthouse at the beginning of a work session with county attorney Larry Brock on Friday, Feb. 1.

Seward said, “I must announce that due to circumstances due to my personal contact with Mr. Brock during the past year, I’m convinced that there could be the appearance that I might not be fair and impartial. For that reason, at present, I will absent myself from the deliberations and decisions regarding Mr. Brock’s budget.”

Yoder said, “I, Bob Yoder, will do the same.”

The first time the supervisors met with Brock on Jan. 28, Brock made some remarks about former county attorney Barbara Edmondson. Edmondson represented Seward and Yoder in 2012 on criminal charges filed by Brock alleging campaign ethics violations, and Washington County juries acquitted both men.

The supervisors ended the Jan. 28 work session without reaching a consensus on Brock’s proposed budget so that Seward and Yoder could have time to decide if they had a conflict of interest with Brock.

During that first work session, Washington County attorney Larry Brock proposed raises for his staff that were higher than the supervisors’ recommended 2 percent for fiscal year 2013-14.  He submitted three proposed budgets, one with a 2-percent increase, a second with a 5-percent increase and a third with an 8-percent increase. He said the higher salary requests would not be paid for by taxpayer dollars. Instead the money his office collects for delinquent fines imposed by the state would pay for the salary increases. He also said that 5 percent raises would increase his bottom line by 1.59 percent. An 8 percent raise would increase his budget by 2.52 percent.

Brock told the three supervisors that his office has already earned about $7,500 as of the end of January as its portion of the delinquent fines collected. The county, he said, was up to about $45,000 as of the end of January.

One of Brock’s campaign promises when he ran for office in 2010 was to “bring accountability and fiscal responsibility to the office by making sure that money is spent wisely and by maximizing potential court fines through flexible plea bargaining.”

Brock said the reason his staff has the time to collect delinquent fines is “we’ve been more efficient in our criminal cases.” He said his office doesn’t prosecute as many cases as the county attorney’s office has in the past.

“We’ve not had to try as many cases that we’ve had before,” Brock said. “More efficient in disposing of them so, therefore, the office has had additional time to spend on collection matters that before was spent on prosecuting cases that frankly were prosecuted for reasons that were minute at best. We have made an effort to focus on benefiting the county as a whole and I simply feel my people needed to be rewarded for what they’ve done.”

Brock also campaigned in 2010, “I believe it is time to change the current attitude and reputation of the Washington County Attorney from an inflexible, nonresponsive, compassionless and uncompromising office to an office that seeks to impose justice based on the principles of compassion, responsiveness and a willingness to work cooperatively for the betterment of all residents of Washington County.”

On Feb. 1, Davis said he was sticking to the 2-percent increase as recommended. He said he didn’t know if funds from state fines would continue in the future.

“Unless people stop committing crimes,” Brock said. “I guarantee, if people stop committing crimes, it would go away. As long as people continue to speed, as long as people continue to drive without a license, as long as people continue to do thefts, it will continue.”

Davis then said that some county departments don’t generate revenue so they would not have the same opportunity for a raise based on revenue. He said that Brock might be able to spend the revenue from fines on something else for his office.

“I think it’s great you’re doing this,” Bennett said, “but if there’s more free time, you hope everybody in all departments would look for ways to either save money or make money.”

“And that’s what we’ve done,” Brock said.

He also said his staff needs to be rewarded for the increased revenue.

“This is money that belongs to my office,” Brock said. “This is not money that belongs to the county. This is money that belongs to my office.”

“But you work for the county as do all of your employees,” Bennett said.

“The code specifically says it goes to my office and I should be able to spend it the way I feel is fit,” Brock said.

Brock asked about the Veterans Affairs budget.

The Veterans Affairs Commission asked the supervisors to give a merit pay increase of $2 an hour to director Sue Rich. Bennett and Davis said no, but Seward, Stoops and Yoder said they could give her half of the request.

Stoops, who defended Rich, said at the Feb. 1 work session that he was “chided” for his remarks about Veterans Affairs.

“You know, I don’t feel I can do anything other than 2 percent because of the controversy that I’ve run into in this county,” Stoops said. “I really got tired of hearing it. I know I’m in this position, but I heard the same thing so many times, over and over. I’m going to stick to the 2 percent.

Bennett, Davis and Stoops held to the 2 percent and the work session came to an end.

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