Jacksonville Sheriff's Office workers' comp money still at stake

Council to meet on issue Tuesday morning

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There is one last issue facing the City Council when it comes to the city budget: what to do about the sheriff and the money to pay for workers' compensation.

The council previously told Sheriff John Rutherford he could keep $10 million in his budget that he saved last year when officers took a pay cut. Now he may be forced to give some of that back to pay for increased payments for workers injured on the job.

The council will meet again Tuesday on the issue.

Rutherford said last week that if the city takes the money back from him, he will be forced to close a facility, the Community Transition Center, which houses inmates who are about to be released from jail. It also is home to the Matrix House, a drug and alcohol treatment center.

That would also mean corrections officers will be let go. The sheriff thought he was safe until he learned the city wants the money he saved to help pay for workers' comp.

Mayor Alvin Brown said Monday he was surprised, saying he had not heard of the sheriff's threats.

"I have not talked to the sheriff," Brown said. "It's the first I heard that he has threatened to close anything. I respect Sheriff Rutherford. He's been on the force for 38 years and he is the top public official when it comes to public safety. But I would hope and pray that whatever happens, we do what is in the interest of the hard-working taxpayers and city employees. But I am not aware of the latest threat that you reference. It's new to me."

The council will meet Tuesday morning. The sheriff's staff did not want to comment Monday, but they did receive public records he requested that contain the workers' comp request by the sheriff's employees.

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