The full Warren County Commission must decide which committee will oversee the jail budget.
For the last several weeks, there has been a power struggle between the county Corrections Partnership Committee, chaired by Commissioner Steven Helton, and the Safety Committee, chaired by Commissioner Ron Lee.
In documents outlining committee responsibilities and submitted to the county’s Legislative Committee, both included review of the jail’s annual budget and review of any budget amendments made during the year.
Helton says those tasks would be better suited within his committee, while Lee contends his committee has traditionally held those duties and he opposes what he called an “overstepping of boundaries.”
Legislative Committee members met Monday to consider what could be done to remedy the situation.
“As it stands right now, we have the county Corrections Partnership Committee listed in here but it doesn’t have a committee job description,” said Commissioner Carlene Brown, Legislative Committee chair.
Committee members have been tasked with reviewing and revising a written Rules Regulating the Procedures of the Warren County Legislative Body. Due to the ongoing controversy, Corrections Partnership’s job description has yet to be added to the document.
“In order to move this forward, I will concede to removing those responsibilities,” said Helton, who took the high road with notice that he plans on making a motion to amend the written policy when it is presented to the full Warren County Commission for its consideration.
That withdrawal came after committee members spent approximately 30 minutes in discussion.
“I’ve been on the county Corrections Partnership Committee since its inception,” said Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin, who is also a Legislative Committee member. “This committee has helped accomplish a lot. I understand Steven’s proposal and I also understand Ron Lee and his thoughts on the matter.”
He presented the original resolution that created the committee and it provided members with no authority over the jail’s budget.
“Is it necessary for the county Corrections Partnership to review the budget? No,” said Bouldin. “Safety has been doing it for years and anyone can go to a Safety Committee meeting and review the budget if they wish. In reality, we have no authority to change or demand anything of the budget, we can only review and recommend, so why the big controversy? It’s probably a better fit for the county Corrections Partnership.”
On Feb. 18, Helton presented a name change to Criminal Justice Committee, as well as bolstering its responsibilities, to members of the County Commission. That measure failed.
That wasn’t necessary, said Bouldin.
“We don’t have to have a name change to add duties and responsibilities. We, as a County Commission, can pick the duties of County Corrections and maintain that same name. A name change is not necessary. There is no need for a second committee reviewing things that another committee already reviews. If it’s going to cause that big a stink, I’d leave it the way it is just to avoid the controversy.”
Brown stated, “Are you speaking as a Correction Partnership Committee member or a Legislative Committee member?”
“Both,” said Bouldin.
This is the third time that Legislative members have discussed the dispute.
“There has been a lot of effort spent on this,” said Commissioner Robert Hennessee. “I don’t feel like it’s been necessary. Corrections Partnership has done a wonderful job and they can continue to do that.”
Commissioner Daniel Owens expressed some frustration.
“These debates are getting so long,” he said. “We asked everybody for what their job duties were. This is the only one that caused any problems – the only one. The other night, he tried to bring forth a new committee with these responsibilities and more. It was ambitious. I liked some of it. It got shot down. I think it’s best to remove the animosity, the conflicting responsibilities, and move on with this.”
After Helton’s voluntary withdrawal of those budgetary responsibilities, Legislative Committee members agreed to add the duties and responsibilities of Correction Partnership Committee within the policy.
Exactly when that document will be presented to Warren County Commission is unknown.