Vote to restore more funding for sheriff passes

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A victory Tuesday for Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale as the county commission voted 3-2 to consider restoring some of the money it cut from his budget in October.

The Jefferson County Commission voted in favor of a non-binding resolution to support Hale in getting 14 deputies and 21 civilians off of administrative leave without pay. The resolution means the sheriff can now ask the county commission to approve a budget amendment.

Commissioners Sheila Smoot, William Bell and Bobby Humphryes voted yes for the non-binding resolution, while commissioners Bettye Fine Collins and Jim Carns voted no.

Sheriff Hale said Tuesday he needs about $1.5 million to bring the employees and deputies back to work.  Sheriff Hale put them on administrative leave without pay in October after the county commission cut $10 million from the sheriff's budget for the new fiscal year.

Thirteen of those deputies were at Tuesday's commission meeting to watch the vote. They said life has not been easy without a paycheck.

"It's rough not being able to work," said Larry Kilgore. "We got a good sheriff fighting for us. All of us decided to we are going to stick it out for our sheriff."

Sheriff Hale welcomed the show of support.

"We need to have public safety," Hale said. "When businesses have confidence in our area and they do. We need  schools to have confidence. It's a pristine environment."

While the commission voted for the resolution, commissioners said the hard part will be finding a $1.5 million to bring them back.

"We are going to be looking to identify  the one point five million to pay the employees," said Bell. "We are looking at several alternatives."

Commissioner Bobby Humphryes said last week he believed the money could be found from the $50 milliion settlement with J-P Morgan with the SEC.

"I don't see why we can't use $1.6 million of that money and put people back to work," Humphryes said. "It's as simple as that."

However, Humphryes' usual ally, Commissioner Jim Carns, disagreed.

"We are taking $1.6 million out of the budget we are under," Carns said. "That will require a budget amendment. I think the budget amendment will be shrunk. I think this is going in the wrong direction."

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said Tuesday the county does not have the money.

"It would be irresponsible as a commissioner to start giving out budget amendments for money when we don't have it," Collins said.

Collins said Sheriff Hale owes the county $1.6 million because he overspent his budget from last year. Lt. Randy Christian, spokesman for Sheriff Hale, disagrees.

"She is playing a shell game with other people's money," Christian said. "It's a dangerous game. Obvious to me she has no idea what it takes to keep the public safe."

Sheriff Hale said he will ask the county's finance committee possibly as soon as Wednesday for the money.