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Board Moves Forward on Report Card

Ventura County orders its executive officer to research the cost and time for a proposed efficiency study on the D.A. and sheriff.

May 07, 2003|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors Tuesday directed county Executive Officer Johnny Johnston to look into the cost of undertaking an efficiency study for the sheriff's and district attorney's offices.

Supervisors unanimously agreed that Johnston should research how much such a study would cost, how long it would take to complete and what, exactly, it would seek to compare.

Supervisor Steve Bennett asked his colleagues to support the request after Sheriff Bob Brooks and Dist. Atty. Greg Totten alleged their proposed departmental funding is so inadequate that they are unable to perform their duties.

The two officials have threatened to sue the Board of Supervisors if they are not given a larger cut of the county's cash-strapped budget.

They have also alleged that supervisors have improperly diverted up to $57 million that should have gone to public safety budgets.

Given those accusations, Bennett said, an analysis comparing Ventura County's spending on law enforcement with other counties would help the public decide whether supervisors have set funding levels appropriately.

The job would be given to an outside consultant with expertise in law enforcement agencies and would look at such topics as the number of prosecutors and cases filed compared with similar-sized counties, Bennett said.

"They can give us some macro comparisons that can lead to some healthy debate," he said.

Supervisors Kathy Long and Linda Parks agreed that a study would be helpful, especially to statistically back up the county's contention that it provides adequate public safety funding.

The numbers could become useful in court if the sheriff and district attorney follow through on their lawsuit threat, the supervisors said.

Although Supervisors John Flynn and Judy Mikels were initially opposed to a study, they agreed to have Johnston gather information and report back to the board.

Mikels said a study is not necessary because the Board of Supervisors is responsible for setting law enforcement's budgets, whether their managers like it or not. She warned her colleagues that she would likely vote against the matter when it returns for final approval.

Public safety leaders have said they will not oppose a study but insist that the same should be done for every county department. Brooks could not be reached for comment after the board vote.

Bennett said he is focusing on the sheriff and district attorney because they are the only managers out of 27 county departments that have protested funding levels.

A similar study was begun in 1995 and its initial findings were critical of law enforcement's spending. But the $65,000 analysis was shelved after public safety leaders condemned it as erroneous and unprofessional.

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