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Here’s The Scoop ….Follow The Bouncing Ball? ….

CHIEF ONE AND CHIEF TWO….

Dear Readers…Recently this writer wrote of finding a section in the LBTS Purchasing Manual specifying the Town’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF) policies. This along with further research made it appear the plan for using the fund for renovations was not allowable under the guidelines…….. Commissioner Dodd was concerned as well about improper use per the statute. He believed  the Town Manager should have properly planned for all of the funds required for renovations for the BSO offices in the new Public Safety Complex in the cost of renovations she presented and was voted on and passed by the Commission shortly after it was purchased. On August 16th he sent an e-mail to the Town Manager for the Town Attorney to answer questions on the correct use of those LETF monies earmarked for the Public Safety Complex after looking up the opinion of former AGO Crist (link below).. and seeing …Sections 932.701 – 932.707, Florida Statutes…”The proceeds and interest may not be used to meet normal operating expenses of the law enforcement agency.”…[5] See Ops. Att’y Gen. Fla. 02-80 (2002) (trust fund may not be used to develop and construct satellite community police office as statutes prohibit use of contraband forfeiture trust funds for meeting “normal operating needs of the law enforcement agency”)  and another opinion on building stables to house police horses were both found not to fall under the the statute’s criteria….He received his response back from the Town Manager on August 31st with the inclusion of the following…

A letter from the BSO Police Chief dated August 28,2009 to request $150,000 for a Sally Port, Prisoner Detention Cell, Interview Room, and Specialized Audio/Video Recording Devices and Acoustic Shielding”….(see below)….

chief req. letf letter

August 28,2008 was the same date on the memo with the opinion from the from the Town Attorney… (see below)…

letf atty. opinion pg 1

letf town atty opinion pg 2

In her 2 page response on page 2…the Town Attorney refers to “The Town’s police chief has submitted a request for LETF funds to be appropriated in the amount of $150,320.46 for specific facilities and equipment at the public safety building in the area to be used as the BSO District Office….”

She goes on to add on page 2 in the 3rd paragraph…” The statute requires the chief to make the initial determination that something can be purchased with the LETF because the statutory criteria in Section 932.7055 (5) have been satisfied. As long as the certification states that the request complies with the requirements of the statute, as was done here, it is sufficient to satisfy the statutory procedure in subsection (5) (b) See AGO 93-06″

“The local governing body is required to “give some deference to the [chief’s] determination when it makes the ultimate decision as to whether such funds should be appropriated for the requested purpose.” ….However, the final appropriation decision rests with the Town Commission.”…

She ends with saying the chief “has properly requested an appropriation from the LETF to pay for the improvements to the BSO space in the public safety building and certified that it meets the requirements of Section 932.7055(5) Florida Statutes. The Town Commission should giver deference to the chief’s request.”…

BC-Hmmm…. While it turns out that the AG has left “wiggle room” in what constitutes the proper LETF uses… included in the Crist opinion (link below)….[6][7]…

“Given the statutory prohibition against using contraband forfeiture trust funds as a source of revenue to meet the normal operating needs of a law enforcement agency, this office has consistently concluded that contraband funds should be used only for the expressly specified purposes or for other extraordinary programs and purposes, beyond what is usual, normal, regular or established.[5] This office has, on occasion, concluded that proposed expenditures were outside the scope of permissible uses for contraband forfeiture funds.[6] Ultimately, the decision of whether the expenditure is for an appropriate law enforcement purpose must be made by the governing body of the city.[7]”

it’s quite disheartening that in the end, the “wiggle room” used by the Town per the Town Attorney’s opinion falls on “The local governing body is required to “give some deference to the [chief’s] determination when it makes the ultimate decision as to whether such funds should be appropriated for the requested purpose.”

The Town put the onus of the LETF’s proper use on the submission of the request made in the Aug 28, 2009 letter from the new BSO Chief when it was only 2 months ago in June we watched as former BSO Chief Gooding was chastised and terminated for doing just that and that was after he stood at the podium and offered to work within a myriad of price ranges being thrown out from various Commissioners sitting on the dais. Furthermore, it also needs to be said again, that while the Town Manager did have the authority to “reassign” Chief Gooding  according to the LBTS-BSO contract, these findings again prove she did not have ANY authority to decide what to do with the LETF funds that ultimately led to the Chief’s departure!…

more to come….

http://myfloridalegal.com/ago.nsf/Opinions/95E653BFFCD85A0F8525705200650BC8

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