In another life, in addition to being an attorney, college professor and political writer/commentator I am also a professional comedian. However, in 10 years of playing comedy clubs in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago, I have never seen anything as funny as Marion County Sheriff John Layton try to explain his budget with a straight face. If anyone deserves an hour special on Comedy Central it is the sheriff.
It started earlier this year when Mayor Greg Ballard unveiled the budget and Council Democrats accused him of shortchanging the sheriff by nearly $11 million. They that noted during their news conference the sheriff's budget was $109 million and Layton had requested $120 million. It turns out the sheriff had requested $108 million and actually ended up getting $109 million. So someone was lying to somebody and it wasn't the Mayor.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Layton has been complaining about the costs of inmate health care and how it is hitting his budget to the tune of $11 million. Now you would think that if health care costs were eating ten percent of your budget you would try to make sure you were prudent with the taxpayer dollars and do whatever you could to alleviate that burden. This is where we come to the Jail Commissary Fund (JCF).
The JCF is money collected from inmates and their families which is supposed to go help cover the costs of running the jail, or so it says in state law. In 2011, the JCF took in about $2 million. I'm not saying all of it has to go cover the costs of inmate health care, even though the inmates would be helping cover the costs of their incarceration, but surely some it could go there.
Look at some of the items the Sheriff has spent money on in 2012 ...
In January: $515 on badge cases.
In February: $107 on gloves for the Department's honor guard.
In March: $804 on coins Honor Guard coins. That same month the office spent more than $1,300 on badges for the jail chaplains.
Don't get me started on things like Satellite TV for the jail. As well as new cars, and other "professional services" like the agreements with former sheriffs, which are supposed to help keep the costs of the jail down. It seems like money from the JCF is being spent on everything but inmate health care, which the Sheriff says is the biggest expenditure eating a hole in his budget.
Oh well, I'm sure he has an explanation for it which will come out during the budget hearings. I personally am looking forward to the one where they explain why they have to keep renting forklifts and why the sheriff spent $1,000 on plaques and awards.