The Pasco County Commission has approved allocating $150,000 to help cover legal expenses connected to the county’s takeover of jail operations from Sheriff Chris Nocco.
The shift has been scheduled for Oct. 1, but discussion during the county board’s May 17 meeting made it clear that the takeover date could be subject to change.
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder asked for the additional funds, in a memo, which was contained in the county board’s agenda packet.
In that memo, Steinsnyder asked to retain the firm of Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson, P.A.
The county attorney also noted his office was not involved in the decision to shift the operations.
“I have subsequently briefed the board on the county’s options and my legal concerns with the county’s assumption of jail operations,” his memo says.
He noted the operating the jail as a county department likely will place additional burdens on his office, associated with drafting an interlocal agreement with the sheriff and other related legal documents, as well as addressing other legal questions and issues.
“The county attorney’s office does not currently have the resources to handle this additional
workload and cannot reallocate existing resources without adversely impacting other important
county projects,” the memo adds.
To help address those issues, Steinsnyder said his office has retained the Nabors law firm to draft the interlocal agreement and other related legal documents.
Nabors has estimated that cost at $60,000, but Steinsnyder said because the extent of the work is unknown, his office and the county’s office of internal services administration are recommending the $150,000 budget, to cover additional, unforeseen work.
Besides retaining Nabors, Steinsnyder recommends the board direct the county’s risk management department to solicit and obtain liability insurance for the county’s future operation of the jail, with the exact insurance types and amounts to be determine by risk management, in consultation with Steinsnyder’s office and outside counsel.
The county attorney also strongly recommended the board not rely solely on self-insurance or sovereign immunity limitations to address the potential financial consequences of jail-related claims, the memo says.
He also noted: “To the extent that miscellaneous jail-related legal questions cannot be handled by existing positions in the county attorney’s office, they will be addressed in a future budget request.”
While the county attorney’s office has secured additional help, Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles told the board the final list of items to be included in a transition accounting is being determined, and once it is finalized, quotes will be sought from three external auditing firms to complete the work.
The board already has allocated $150,000 for that task.
Alvarez-Sowles told the board that a comprehensive list had been completed, but she said it is too lengthy to be completed on time, within budget.
So, it is in the process of being pared down.
“What we’re looking at is keeping the things on the list that are essential. What are non-essential, that can be done with the county and the jail working together,” the clerk said.
To complicate matters, County Administrator Dan Biles announced his resignation at the end of the same meeting. The effective date of his resignation is Sept. 30, but he has accrued personal time off, so his last working day will be July 31.
Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano asked if the county has enough time, to be prepared to take over the jail operations on Oct. 1, especially in light of Biles’ departure.
Biles said that he always considered Oct. 1 to be very aggressive date for the shift.
Steinsnyder said that date is not mandatory, but that the board would have to negotiate the issue with the sheriff.
Published June 01, 2022
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