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Judge Hears Arguments From Attorneys In Alachua County Sheriff Civil Lawsuit

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Attorneys representing Alachua County and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office went before a judge Monday as part of the county’s civil lawsuit against Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

Arguments were made before a judge during a summary judgement, the step prior to taking the case to trial before a jury. Attorneys representing either side presented their arguments to Judge Monica Brasington.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the county against its own sheriff in February, stems from a budget disagreement between the Sheriff’s Office and county commissioners.

The disagreements between county commissioners and the sheriff’s office lie in three main areas:

  • Whether sheriffs can move money between certain budgetary categories without going through the same process as the commission and other constitutional officers.
  • Whether the commission can require the sheriff’s office to separately account for expenditures from the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) Law Enforcement.
  • Does the sheriff’s office have to code expenditures to specify if they were spent in incorporated or unincorporated areas?

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office receives funding from general property taxes and the MSTU, which is paid by residents in unincorporated parts of the county.

The county, represented in court by Sr. Assistant County Attorney Bob Swain, said the sheriff cannot move funds and use them for other areas of the budget.

“It all comes down to the question of whether the sheriff has the authority to move funding between two objects and between two funds,” Swain said in court.

But Darnell and the sheriff’s office, represented by Cynthia Weygant, argued that it is within Darnell’s power to move funds.

“There has never, never been any specific responsibility or authority in any of the statutes that the county points to that gives the county the right to approve transfers or the right to disapprove it,” Weygant said in court.

Mark Sexton, an Alachua County spokesman, told WUFT News when the lawsuit was filed in February that the commission thinks Darnell needs to account for how money is spent. He said they need to make sure that the funds are distributed to all the right places.

Darnell herself was not present in court Monday.

After both attorneys made their arguments before Judge Brasington, she said it won’t be until late December that she makes a ruling. Based on that ruling, the case could potentially proceed to trial before a jury in 2018.

About Ramsey Touchberry

Ramsey is a reporter for WUFT who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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