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Sheriff Mims Plans to Sue Fresno County over Layoffs

Friday, February 05, 2010

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is dealing with a six and a half million dollar budget shortage by laying off correctional workers and letting inmates out of jail early. But that has angered the county supervisors. They want the sheriff to stop laying off correctional officers and to quit releasing inmates. But the Sheriff said while the supervisors may have the power to cut her budget, they can't tell her how to cut it.

But County Supervisor Phil Larson disagrees, "The sheriff needs to manage her budget, she needs to control it but I don't want any more prisoners released." Larson made the comment at a special budget meeting on Friday.

But Sheriff Margaret Mims said the board went too far on Friday when they overturned her decision to lay off 23 correctional officers. She said they are not needed, since one thousand inmates have been released and the jail is now half empty.

"They (the board of supervisors) do not have the authority to determine how I use the budget they have given me and they've taken that step today and I do have the responsibility to resist that kind of action." Mims said.

She's resisting by retaining a lawyer and going to court. That's not welcome news to tax watchdog Chris Mathys of the Valley Taxpayers Association. "When you have elected officials hiring their own lawyers that taxpayers are paying for I think that's enough. If there's a problem people that are elected should take care of it without hiring third party lawyers."

But the elected officials can't seem to take care of it. Political Science Professor Tom Holyoke of Fresno State says the Supervisors and the Sheriff are locked in a power struggle. "It seems to be a test of wills. Almost a political game of chicken. Which has been going on for awhile. What the Sheriff has done today is really, upped the ante." Holyoke said.

The Sheriff said laying off correctional officers and releasing inmates is not what she wants to do but said her only other choice is cutting the number of deputies she has out on the streets protecting the people.

"When they call 9-1-1 they are going to get a deputy. And they are going to get an experienced detective to handle the case, and a trained I-bureau to make sure we have enough evidence to bring it to court. Those are the decisions I have to make when I decide my budget." Mims said.

The Sheriff is expected to file suit against the County Supervisors next week.

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Tags:
budget cuts, fresno, court, fresno county sheriff department, fresno county board of supervisors, local, gene haagenson
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