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Judge blasts tax on TV show

County Judge Gary Graham says he won't tell the people of Citrus County how to vote on a proposed sales tax increase to pay for the new jail. But he requested air time from Channel 7 on the Telesat cable system to broadcast his views on the tax and the location of the jail. In an interview taped last week that is scheduled to be broadcast tonight, he makes it perfectly clear that he thinks voters ought to say no.

"This is a tax to raise an indefinite amount of money over an indeterminate period of time for undefined facilities to be built on land purchased from undisclosed owners," he said in the interview. "That all concerns me."

He goes on to suggest that some of the money raised by the sales tax will be used to build a courthouse in Lecanto.

After Graham's interview, which was conducted by QPI Productions president Tom Franklin, an interview with Assistant County Administrator Steve Wylie will be aired.

Wylie's statements contradict many of Graham's assertions. He says the additional tax will raise $8-million to $9-million and likely will end within 20 months but definitely will be removed by the end of 1994.

Though Wylie maintains that there are no plans for a Lecanto courthouse, Graham claimed: "We're being asked to raise money for it. ... It would seem to me that if they raise money for a courthouse complex, they would build a courthouse complex."

Graham based his assertion on the language in the referendum, which says the money from a tax increase would be used for a jail and "related court/criminal justice facilities."

Wylie said the wording was approved before the County Commission's recent decision to eliminate courtrooms designated for first-appearance hearings in the new jail complex.

He said, however, that technically "there will still be criminal facilities out there, just very small." He was referring to the commission's plan to have a defendant's first court appearance handled by a video hookup from the jail to an Inverness courtroom.

Wylie also discounted Graham's sug

gestion that there was a hidden agenda to do anything but build a jail for 300 or 400 inmates.

In the interview, Graham suggested that the county has planned from the beginning to move all criminal court proceedings to Lecanto. The architectural plans, however, included only two small courtrooms for first appearances.

The idea that all criminal proceedings would be held there was not discussed seriously until Graham suggested at a jail committee meeting that Circuit Judge William Edwards was planning such a move. The day after that meeting, Edwards told commissioners that only they could decide.

Graham would not comment Tuesday on his television appearance, scheduled to air at 8 p.m.