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Year in review: Hernando sheriff relents on federal inmate dollars

Published Dec. 27, 2017

BROOKSVILLE — Mid-year budget squabbles between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis are as predictable as summer thunderstorms.

But in 2017, they took on a new flavor.

As state budget deadlines approached, county commissioners challenged Nienhuis. Something was missing from his formal spending plan submission. He admitted that he had begun housing federal inmates, but his budget reflected no revenue from that source.

During the 2016 budget discussion, Nienhuis had complained about not being able to give pay raises and hire deputies. He blamed county commissioners and took his dispute all the way to Tallahassee.

A closer look at his budget showed that he had enough money to meet many of those spending needs because of the inmate housing fees.

The Sheriff was called out by his former third-in-command, James Terry, who said Nienhuis intentionally hid the money from the county. Nienhuis countered, calling Terry a disgruntled former employee.

Early on, Nienhuis and his staff said they didn't have to turn the money back to the county because it was placed in a "special revenue fund.'' In July, commissioners demanded that Nienhuis turn over the $2.2 million collected over the past several years, and he did. He also filed an amended budget.

Eventually, the county and Nienhuis agreed on a spending plan that included increased tax revenues from rising property values.

Barbara Behrendt, Times staff

RELATED: After commission vote, Hernando sheriff agrees to turn over inmate dollars