Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Commission Skewers Secretive, Stumbling Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's Budget Flummery and Flimflammery
Photos are screenshots from St. Johns County Commission Government TV website
Spoke twice at St. Johns County Commission about Sheriff DAVID SHOAR. First, I spoke about his obstruction of justice in the Michelle O'Connell case and three time Pulitzer Prize winner Walt Bogdanich's article in Sunday's New York Times. Next, I spoke on SHOAR's proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget, about which few details were presented. Thankful for Commissioner Jeb Smith for asking tough questions of SHOAR, who presented himself as a bumbling fool, not knowing basic budget information and yelling to his staff at the back of the room to yell out answers. We're going to continue to ask questions, demand answers and expect democracy here in corrupt St. Johns County, Florida. Venceremos! As LBJ said to Congress after Selma, "We SHALL overcome!" Good story by Jake Martin in Record:=
Posted June 21, 2017 12:02 am - Updated June 21, 2017 01:11 am
By JAKE MARTIN firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Johns County Commission lukewarm to sheriff’s budget proposal
Walking St. Johns County commissioners through some main points of his proposed $72 million operating budget for next year, Sheriff David Shoar on Tuesday stumbled upon some tough questions and a board in little to no rush to increase spending.
The sheriff is asking for funding for, among other things, 18 new road deputies to add to the 12 he asked for, and received, last year. Also requested are four 911 operators, two corrections deputies and two civilian positions in the corrections department. Altogether, Shoar’s seeking a 7.26 percent increase, compared to the 7.5 percent bump he got in 2016.
In the discussion following his overview, however, some commissioners were already hinting at an expectation he’ll be coming back to them in subsequent years with similar requests until his agency is up to the size needed to deal with the county’s booming population.
Shoar said one of his goals is to get the countywide response time below 5 minutes and 30 seconds, a number he said is really more intuitive than scientific, but one generally agreed upon as achievable and effective by agencies at different levels. While the county’s two southern patrol districts routinely hit the target time, the northwest and northeast districts, which have seen the bulk of new growth, do not.
SEE ALSO ‘Honestly, we are trying to catch up’: Shoar cites growth as he looks to add 18 road deputies, others with budget proposal
He said there has been a drop in response times in the northern districts with the 12 deputies added last year, although “not enough.”
Shoar spent a good portion of his presentation painting a picture of a growing county facing a new set of problems, namely, an opioid epidemic. The 37-year local lawman said in his 17 years patrolling the streets of St. Augustine, he saw heroin only twice, and that the county is now seeing it on an everyday basis.
He also gave lip service to increased traffic crashes on Interstate 95, a trend he called “out of control,” as well as increases in mental health related issues including attempted suicides and suicides. He said the county is on pace for 40 suicides this year.
“We have to work every one of them like a homicide, until we learn differently, and we know what happens if you don’t,” he said.
Shoar also made reference to the “Jax factor,” elaborating that his agency is seeing more criminal activity on the part of Duval County residents who are coming down in stolen cars and stealing construction equipment and more cars.
All of this after years of austerity and instructions to “do more with less.”
“My honest assessment is that we’re at a tipping point and we need your help,” he told commissioners, adding later that he felt his request is “modest.”
The growth Shoar pointed to in order to make his case for more funding was the same growth commissioners tossed right back at him as one reason they might not be able to give him all he wants. But the scrutiny didn’t stop there.
Commissioner Jeb Smith said some expenses like jail maintenance and beach services come from the county’s General Fund, rather than the sheriff’s budget, and that those costs should also be taken into consideration.
“Those are big, big ticket items that I think the public needs to understand are not included in this line item,” he said.
“Sure,” the sheriff said.
Referencing Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels’s $53 million budget request to his commissioners for next year, Smith asked what difference there was between the two agencies that could amount to $20 million.
“Let’s have that conversation so we can disabuse folks of that notion,” Shoar said. “I’m so glad you brought it up.”
He said in Clay County, the commission pays the workers’ compensation insurance as well as employee benefits costs for the sheriff’s office and that his budget, at the end of the day, is just $1.9 million higher.
Shoar also cautioned against “apples-to-oranges comparisons.”
He said when he looks at counties with similar populations and annual budgets hundreds of millions of dollars lower than St. Johns County’s $673 million budget, he doesn’t ask “What gives?” because he knows the explanation is behind the cover page.
“That’s why I ask the question,” Smith replied. “When I, as a commissioner, simply get a two-page address to that request and then a 24-page addendum to it, that doesn’t answer those questions.”
“Answer what questions?” the sheriff asked in response.
Shoar said he’s coming up with a budget request for his office, not the Clay County office. Smith said when he looks at budget requests he’s also looking for comparisons, to see how the costs measure up with those elsewhere.
“I appreciate the questions,” Shoar said. “It’s just that … you know, we gotta be cautious when we start comparing things because things are not the same.”
Smith said he wanted clarity because, for instance, people can look at news reports coming out of different counties with budgets that are millions of dollars apart and see a “tremendous discrepancy.”
“Difference,” Shoar quickly corrected.
Smith said the “delineation” needs to be noted nonetheless.
“We should ask the hard questions,” Shoar said. “That’s what our public demands and that’s what our public deserves, and we should do it in an open forum like this, although I wish you and I had a chance to speak about this last night, but that’s OK, doing it in public is probably the best place.”
Agreeing, Smith continued with his comments, which entered many more territories.
He said he had also secured the Marion County Sheriff’s Office budget, weighing in at 108 pages, in which he found “very thorough accounting” of every expenditure and revenue source. He said he found the descriptions and details “very helpful.”
“Fantastic,” Shoar said, adding later that he invites any commissioner or member of the public to come to the sheriff’s office and go into as great detail as desired on the budget. “It’s very transparent.”
(Ahead of Shoar’s presentation, Jesse Dunn, director of the county’s office of management and budget, told commissioners he had the line-item budget details, “as always,” if they had any interest.)
Commissioner Jay Morris, citing growth and his satisfaction with the overall performance of the sheriff’s office, threw his support behind the proposed budget. He said the county’s priority, bottom line, is public safety.
“If we have to turn off the lights at the ball field, no one is going to die,” he said, adding he sees no other way around than to cut costs or look for more revenue to meet the growing demands.
Commission Chair Jimmy Johns said he appreciates the resources the sheriff has used to stretch the dollars he’s gotten. He said faster response times and better overall services are important, but that those needs have to balance out with the monies actually available.
Following up on Johns’ comments, Smith recalled the county spent some amount of money out of reserves last year in order to fulfill the sheriff’s request for the 12 additional deputies.
He also told fellow commissioners to bear in mind those positions are now a recurring expense and that any other additional hires would similarly affect future budgets.
There was no immediate answer from county staff exactly how much came out of reserves to get last year’s request done.
Smith said he didn’t enjoy asking the questions he asked but said it was part of his job. Shoar said he understood the need for scrutiny and that he was well aware the commission’s task was often a thankless one.
During public comment, the county and the sheriff’s office both took some criticism from residents for not having a more fleshed-out budget available online for scrutiny of line-item details. An executive summary of the proposed budget is available from the sheriff’s office home page, www.sjso.org.
There is no line-item detail in the 24-page summary. Seven pages of the document are maps of the county outlining patrol zones and districts, residential building trends and population estimates.
There are, however, several charts and graphs illustrating various justifications for hiring additional employees. This includes a brief history of calls for service, which shows they went up 40 percent between 2010 to 2016, as well as a breakdown of the law enforcement-to-population ratio, which has dropped from 1.55 deputies per 1,000 residents in 2008 to 1.18 deputies per 1,000 residents in 2017.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in the meantime, recommends 1.9 officials per 1,000 residents, but Shoar said he’s just aiming to get the ratio to 1.25.
“I’m not proud of that,” he said. “We have to reverse that. It puts us in the bottom third in the state.”
Smith said he took some issue with the ratio data as presented by the sheriff’s office because he felt it was not exactly an “apples-to-apples” comparison.
While the ratio as described by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is supposed to identify the total number of officers per 1,000 residents in unincorporated areas, the sheriff’s office used the countywide population, which includes incorporated areas, in calculating its annual ratios.
Tuesday’s agenda item was just a presentation. No formal action was taken by the board on any of the sheriff’s requests, which will be incorporated in the county’s overall budget talks that will continue through the summer.
The Sheriff was unprepared and IT SHOWED BIG TIME !
Or was Shoar just trying to hide things in his budget ?
More SECRET St Johns County GOVERNMENT !
To know Shoar and Kline (under-sheriff) are leading County Wide Law Enforcement is VERY SCARY !
AFTER THE PRESENTATION, Sheriff Shoar and Under Sheriff Kline ran for the DOOR !
Why fellas ?
What kind of Sheriff and Under Sheriff would run out the door instead of staying and listening to the Public during Public Comment ?
The kind that lacks courage ......................................................
The kind THAT IS HIDING SOMETHING or THINGS ?
HOW CAN THERE NOT BE A Line Item Accounting for his own budget requests..it makes No Sense and only adds to the numerous shady aspects of his activities. This is Real Government stuff and needs to be treated and handled and Respected as such, not just with vague and hidden information. Hopefully, he will be held to account to resubmit with open and honest accountability for these monies.