RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - On Monday, in a heated Rapides Parish Police Jury meeting, the police jury planned to take up a vote to slash the district attorney's office budget by half a million dollars.
Rapides Parish Police Jury Treasurer Bruce Kelly. (Source: KALB)
The police jury's treasurer claims that the district attorney's pre-trial intervention program, which essentially re-routes money from the criminal court fund directly to the district attorney's office, is a major factor in the parish's $400,000 deficit in its general fund.
At first, police jury treasurer Bruce Kelly danced around the issue.
"This has been a steady problem," he told jurors. "This has been a problem that goes back a couple years."
Then, he ripped the Band-Aid off.
"It's not there, said Kelly. "It's the white elephant in the room. They are being diverted to the district attorney."
A general fund deficit, he said, can be blamed on the district attorney's office and it's pre-trial intervention program. It's a program offered by most DA's around the state and is making waves here at home.
"How far in debt? What's the deficit with the general fund budget at this point?" asked police juror, Theodore Fontaine.
"About $400,000," said Kelly.
The criminal court fund pays for programs that help keep the parish running, everything from judge's office operations to feeding and maintaining inmates. But, Kelly says the district attorney is re-routing that money that typically comes from traffic tickets through PTI from the criminal court fund directly to the district attorney's office.
Kelly said the parish budgeted to make $650,000 in court funds, but it's way off the mark.
District Attorney Phillip Terrell wasn't having it at the meeting.
"We had an agreement as to what we were going to do and then the ball was moved on us," he said, hinting at discussions that the district attorney's office would pay $325,000 into the criminal court fund. "We certainly want to work with the police jury to do what we can to make this right. We certainly don't want to fight with the police jury, but gentlemen it is our position that this whole ball of wax is not our fault. There is some other money that has been spent by the jury that, if we have to get into litigation, I'm sure we'll all talk about."
A hint at a lawsuit changed plans for a vote to cut the budget. Police juror Scott Perry suggested to table the vote and continue discussions later.
Not everyone wanted that.
"Here you say again, lets do the same thing," said Fontaine. "It is evident that something has to be done. We as a jury are afraid to do what we need to do."
Ultimately, they voted to hold off...just as a frustrated district attorney's office employee gave them a piece of her own mind.
"You were voted into office! Just remember that!" shouted Debra Saucier.