Welcome to 2011
That’s My Opinion
By Bob Robinson
Jan. 7, 2011
Monday was reminiscent of events that led to Darke County Commissioners Terry Haworth, Mike Rhoades and Bob Downing leaving the commissioners office and walking next door to the Darke County Courthouse.
Their destination? Common Pleas Court by order of Judge Jonathon Hein. I snapped the picture… their expressions were those of three members of a Georgia Chain Gang, except they were wearing suits instead of stripes.
In 2003 Hein ordered the commissioners to appear in court over a pay raise dispute for County Defenders. He wanted the hourly rate to be increased from $40 to $64.19. Commissioners said they didn’t have the money.
Eventually – with the possibility of fines and/or jail time hanging over their heads – commissioners agreed to a compromise.
In January 2008 commissioners staged a meeting at Romer’s to announce plans for a new County Courthouse addition. They insisted it was a public meeting but I only found out by accident, and it was attended primarily by public officials… few from the “public” were to be found.
However, that’s “you-know-what” under the bridge. The key here is that while Judge Julie Monnin is concerned about security and traffic in her Municipal Court on the third floor of the courthouse, and Juvenile Probate Judge Michael McClurg only wanted improvements made to his facility, Hein is “reportedly” the only one who is (or was) pushing the new facility.
Whether or not it was with the full and voluntary participation of the commissioners is unknown. Due to a combination of public outcry and the current economy, the plan is on “indefinite” hold.
On Monday, with new Commissioners Diane Delaplane and Mike Stegall, Rhoades read a statement wherein Hein has asked for $57,000 in additional funding because, while asking the rest of the Department Heads to turn in “flat line” budgets, commissioners approved $80,000 to help the Darke County Sheriff hire two drug enforcement officers.
The deputies were hired without a budget increase. Hein’s request for his department, plus similar increases for the Prosecutor’s Office and other departments, would necessitate robbing Peter to pay Paul and/or a tax hike.
Tax hike? Yeah, right! Robbing Peter? From where? Peter has no money. Without additional funding, the trough is empty.
Hein said his request was to hire a new probation officer and give his staff a 2 percent raise. Sorry, Jon. In an environment where one in five Darke Countians is either unemployed or under-employed, requesting a raise for public employees is ludicrous!
Hein is also quoted as saying this funding increase was “unfair” to the other county departments.
Unfair? Again ludicrous! While all departments have an important function in county government, one of government’s primary roles is public safety!
With the loss of prevention programs and a drug enforcement team several years ago, drug trafficking in the county has gotten out of control.
Commissioners also said Hein questioned why the money wasn’t used to put another car on the road since break-ins and home invasions were also on the rise. I don’t understand his point since 1) it’s irrelevant how the extra money being used since his concern seems to be the unfairness of an increase, not how it’s used, and 2) any peace officer will tell you that the vast majority of these crimes is drug related.
Street drugs are not free. Users typically engage in other criminal activity to get money for their addictions.
In 2003, Hein didn’t get what he wanted, so he issued an order for them to appear in his court. A 2011 Budget was passed Wednesday without including the additional funds Hein wanted for his and other departments.
So is another court order in the commissioners’ future?
Is jail time in their future if they don’t do his bidding? He has the power. When asked if they’d be willing to go to jail over this, Rhoades said “yep,” Delaplane said “I can do bread and water,” and Stegall said “I need to lose the weight.”
Are court-ordered fines in their future? Possibly. That question wasn’t addressed.
And Hein has the legal authority to “take over” his own budget and establish any funding he wishes… will he do that? Possibly.
While all those options may be excellent bargaining tools, I doubt any of them will happen.
I believe Hein is simply doing what he did seven years ago… creating a scenario where he will get not what he has asked for, but what he really wants.
What he really wants, of course, is anybody’s guess, but I’ve no doubt we’ll find out.
The commissioners have already said that if drug enforcement operations increase the workload of the courts and the Prosecutor’s Office, they’ll deal with it. If that’s all Hein wants, then this is much ado about nothing.
If he wants more, then a new set of fireworks may be in our future… and this is only the first week of the new year.
Welcome to 2011.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
Bob Robinson is the retired editor of The Daily Advocate, Greenville, Ohio. If you wish to receive a daily notification of his comments, opinions and reports, send your email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to express your views.