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Brooks, Totten Reject County Offer in Feud

Drop lawsuit and we won't take funding case to the high court, two supervisors had said.

September 10, 2004|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

As olive branches go, the one extended by two Ventura County supervisors to the county's two top lawmen broke on contact.

The way Sheriff Bob Brooks described the proposed resolution of a bitter budget feud with county supervisors was: "Hey, you're winning. Why don't you give up?"

Then the sheriff said, "I didn't go to law school, but that doesn't make sense to me."

Brooks was responding Thursday to an offer from Steve Bennett, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and Vice Chairwoman Kathy Long.

The two supervisors said Thursday they wouldn't ask the California Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of a county ordinance that sets public safety budgets if the sheriff and Dist. Atty. Greg Totten drop a lawsuit challenging how supervisors have carried out the law.

The supervisors described the offer as a compromise. But Brooks and a spokesman for Totten scoffed.

"What is their offer, other than to capitulate?" said Special Assistant Dist. Atty. Tom Harris.

Brooks pointed out that he and Totten already had won two legal victories on the constitutionality issue and had nothing to fear by taking it to the state's highest court.

It would make more sense for the county board to authorize County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston to begin settlement negotiations in earnest, Brooks said.

"That would be true compromise," he said.

Bennett disagreed. If Brooks and Totten drop their sword, taxpayers will be spared the cost of a trial over the 1995 public safety funding law, he said.

Supervisors have said the county can no longer afford to grant public safety agencies double-digit funding increases each year. But Brooks and Totten said they were owed the funding under the law.

So they sued the county late last year. In Bennett's view, they should withdraw the suit.

"They're asking us not to go to the Supreme Court, but we can't do that unless they drop their lawsuit," he said.

Bennett said he would probably convene a special session of the Board of Supervisors on Monday to consider filing a Supreme Court appeal before the deadline for doing so passes.

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