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Supervisors to Challenge Funding Law

The Ventura County board agrees to sue over a 1995 ordinance that sets spending levels for the sheriff's and district attorney's offices.

July 23, 2003|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

The battle over public safety funding in Ventura County got even more contentious Tuesday, with the Board of Supervisors agreeing to file a lawsuit seeking to invalidate an ordinance that sets law enforcement's funding levels.

Supervisors voted unanimously to file a cross-complaint that challenges the legality of the funding law, enacted on a 3-2 vote in 1995. Supervisors say the funding provided for the sheriff, district attorney and two other public safety agencies by that law is too costly for the county's cash-strapped budget.

Though it might be possible to redefine the funding levels, county lawyers and supervisors allege that the entire ordinance should be scrapped because it was unconstitutional in the first place.

Sheriff Bob Brooks and Dist. Atty. Greg Totten filed their own lawsuit last week, alleging that the county was under-funding their departments in violation of the ordinance.

Supervisors also face a lawsuit filed by the city of Thousand Oaks, County Counsel Frank Sieh said. That lawsuit seeks to halt a threatened closure of the East County Jail and accuses the county board of failing to provide enough money for law enforcement.

Tuesday's vote is significant because it shows that even the supervisors who initially supported the ordinance are backing off from it. Board Chairwoman Judy Mikels and Supervisor John Flynn cast votes in support of the law in 1995.

"We can't keep going through this battle every year," Mikels said before going into a closed-door meeting to discuss the legal options. "We've got to get this settled once and for all."

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