The budget battle between Pasco Sheriff Bob White and the County Commission now has its losing side: the public. Taxpayers are stuck financing this ridiculous fight between public officials over public money.
As Times staff writer Jodie Tillman reported, Pasco County is paying its Washington, D.C., consultant, International City County Management Association, or ICMA, $25,000 to assist in its case before the governor and Cabinet.
The appropriation came absent public discussion in an open meeting since the dollar amount is at the threshold under which County Administrator John Gallagher can act without board approval. It would have been nice to hear a commission debate on this spending considering the brouhaha elsewhere as the county attempts to balance its budget with user fees including $2 to park at public beaches. It's tough to cry poor mouth if there is always spare change around when the commission needs it.
Commissioners and White are at odds over public safety spending. White is appealing his allocation to Tallahassee, seeking an extra $4 million with much of it earmarked to hire 28 deputies to patrol west Pasco. The commission gave White $85.5 million for law enforcement and the jail, the same as fiscal year 2010, after the sheriff ignored the county's request to all of its constitutional officers for a 5 percent cut.
White, a member of Gov. Rick Scott's transition team, was able to turn to his politically connected lawyers — Jeremiah Hawkes, former general counsel to the state House of Representatives, and state Rep. Richard Corcoran — in preparation for this appeal.
The county turned to ICMA, the consultants retained previously to help streamline the county budget process and to study its firefighting operations. White has called the ICMA study of consolidating emergency dispatch services "the biggest waste of money'' because it failed to account for multimillion-dollar equipment upgrades. Tuesday, he called the group a biased mouthpiece for the county
His rhetoric aside, the spending is troublesome. The bill right now is $25,000, not counting the lost productivity from staff time at both the Sheriff's Office and county devoted to research and preparation for the appeal hearings.
Spending the public's money to settle a disagreement over still more public money is symptomatic of government waste and arrogance, no matter which side is signing the check.