I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fixing the Law Enforcement Trust Fund Expenditure Process Locally, Part I

10 year look at Escambia County LET expenditures;  Promotions and outside agency charitable donations have gone from 4% of total LET expenditures in 2008 to 96% of total expenditures in 2017.  Is this the best way to spend this money?

At the regular meeting of the Escambia Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, October 5th 2017, the board unanimously voted to ask the Florida Attorney General to provide an advisory opinion about our current process for approving expenditures from our Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF).  There is continuing concern that the process being utilized does not comport with statute.

A citizen complained the the state attorney about these expenditures last year, and in response the state attorney wrote a three page opinion encouraging the BCC to engage in the process and to consider approving expenditures before such expenditures are made. From the state attorney memo:

"Section 932.7055(5)(b) provides that funds may be expended only upon appropriation to the Sheriffs Office by the Board of County Commissioners. Section 932.7055(5)(c)1 states that these funds may be used only for school resource officers, crime prevention, safe neighborhood, drug abuse education, or drug prevention programs or such other law enforcement purposes as the Board of County Commissioners deems appropriate. The Attorney General has written on numerous occasions that the governing body of the municipality or county must make the decision whether an expenditure from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund is for an appropriate law enforcement purpose. For these reasons we recommend that Escambia County review the procedures for expenditures from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund and determine if these requests should be individually reviewed and approved by the Board of County Commissioners ."

The unanimous vote to ask for an Attorney General's Opinion (AGO) means that a request will be sent to Attorney General Pam Bondi by the end of this week.

In addition to asking for an AGO, the board also voted 3-1 to revise the BCC's process locally for how we approve expenditures to be more like the process is in Broward County.  Sheriff Scott Israel has an excellent process that the board here locally favors.  I was honored that my fellow board members have asked me to lead a committee in implementing an improved process locally--and I am excited to lead this effort and I look forward to reforming the process locally.

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