Sheriff Rutherford on budget: Mayor's office has 'bad gamesmanship'

Community Transition Center may be forced to close

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford is threatening to sue the city after city officials uncovered millions of dollars unaccounted for in the budget.

They're asking Rutherford to fill the void, which means he may be forced to close the Community Transition Center.

Last month, the sheriff convinced City Council to let him keep a chunk of money he saved up last year to keep the center open. But now the city says it needs that money to pay for workers' compensation claims.

DOCUMENT: Ordinance on workers' comp funding

"Does that make sense to you? We are going to close a correction facility for that? This is bad gamesmanship," Rutherford said.

The Community Transition Center is where people go before they get out of jail. The site has became a pawn in the sheriff's budget battle this year.

First it was going to be shut down and corrections officers let go. But late last month, the sheriff made an argument to council he should be able to keep it open by using $10.5 million he saved last year when officers took a pay cut.

During a council committee meeting Wednesday, the sheriff learned that money may go to pay for workers' comp.

"Some workers' comp claims that are unfunded to the tune of $5-, $6- or $7 million, that is going to have to come from somewhere," City Council member John Crescimbeni said.

Since a good part of those claims come from police officers, the administration believes the Sheriff's Office will have to pay. The sheriff says that's wrong.

"I hope the City Council members will see this for exactly what it is," Rutherford said. "This is simply a grab for that $10.5 milllion that they lost before, and they now are trying to get it again. And I don't want to close a correction facility because I don't get to keep that $10.5 million."

In fact, the sheriff is so mad he says he might have to sue the mayor's staff to get information he needs to prove the money is not needed. He says the insurance office won't turn over paperwork to show that the money is really needed.

"So I may wind up going to the General Counsel's office to sue the administration to give me the documents," Rutherford said.

The council is also looking for more information and is asking the administration to come back in two weeks to give them answers. But all sides say time is running out.

The mayor's office says the sheriff has gone over budget this year for workers' comp. It says part of the agreement for him to keep the $10.5 million was that he would come in under budget.

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