Jacksonville mayor, sheriff continue budget battle

Latest issue: Worker's comp claims that threaten funds to keep jail open

JACKSONVILLE, FLa. - With just over three weeks before the new fiscal year begins, a budget showdown between Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and Sheriff John Ruthforford.

At what was supposed to be the final special council meeting on the budget Friday morning, Rutherford continued to threaten to close down a successful jail drug intervention program, saying Brown is taking away $10.5 million in funding that the council voted to make available.

Rutherford learned the city miscalculated on how much money the Sheriff's Office will have to pay for workman's comp claims -- which the city says must come out of that pot of money.

Ruthord is demanding records to prove that his department owes that money, or prove the mayor wrong.

"They will either give it to me, or I will sue them," Rutherford said. "I have not heard back from them. I hope they are over there working on it. I am sure they are."

Brown, taking heat because 150 city employees got their pink slips this week, spoke out about the budget mess.

"We just did not wake up and say, 'Oh, we are going to cut here and there,'" Brown said. "We did it very strategically, very focused, team-orientated, getting the best feedback from everyone."

Finance Committee Chairman John Crescimbeni said the sheriff should not get any special favors, and that other city departments are already feeling the effects of the sheriff's budget.

"The increase pension cost of police officers and firefighters is coming at the expense of public works employees that got laid off yesterday," Crescimbeni said. "Library employees that got laid off yesterday."

Council President Bill Bishop wants more answers.

"You know, the sheriff is blaming the administration. I don't know if that is true or not," Bishop said. "There may be part of that. My guess is that there it is mostly not that."

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