Monday, February 16, 2009

Hartmann Weighs In On HCSO Budget Mess

Yesterday, I suggested that HamCo Sheriff Simon Leis needs some help in the public relations department. It seems that help won't be coming from within his own party. Today, Republican HamCo Commissioner Greg Hartmann piles on with an open letter to Leis in the Enquirer.

Hartmann is critical of Leis's refusal to use money from drug forfeitures to save deputies' jobs. The most pointed part of his letter is probably this:

You have stated that lives are at risk, and we take you at your word. However, you have also demonstrated that you are unable to make the necessary decisions in your operation to protect public safety. Now, I have to.


Those are tough words indeed from one Republican official to another. And one has to respect Hartmann immensely for going public. After all, as the sole Republican on the Commission, he could just as easily sit this fight out and blame the Democratic majority later on for not fixing the public safety budget.

Hartmann also proposes shifting responsibility for all courthouse security to the Clerk of Courts, leaving Leis free to redelegate the funds he would have spent there to patrol and corrections. (Commissioner Portune has endorsed this suggestion.) If anyone other than Hartmann had offered this as a potential (partial) solution, I'd wonder how the Clerk's budget could absorb this. But until a couple months ago, Hartmann was the Clerk of Courts. If anyone knows where money can be squeezed out of that budget, it's Greg Hartmann.

Certainly, Hartmann will have ideological differences from his Democratic counterparts on the BOCC. But it's good to see Hartmann constructively offering suggestions--and his colleagues paying attention. Hartmann brings a skill set and knowledge base previously lacking on the Commission, as he is the only member who has experience working in the criminal justice system. (Before being elected Clerk, he was an assistant prosecuting attorney.) In that regard, his voice should be heard loudly and often in discussing local criminal justice reforms. Often, when I hear or read proposals from Portune or Pepper that touch on the criminal justice system, it's clear that (although they're certainly well-meaning) the two have little or no experience with criminal law. And while I'm sure Hartmann will often bring a pro-government point of view with which I won't always agree, I'm glad to see someone with practical insight helping to make policy.

The commissioners need to continue to set aside partisan differences, where possible, in order to best serve the community in these tough times. And it looks like the newly constituted Commission is off to a good start.

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