Tuesday, October 6 , 2015, 7:34 pm | Fair 70º

Santa Barbara County Supervisors Approve $1 Million in Sheriff’s Department Overtime Costs

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an $1 million transfer to the Sheriff's Department since the agency went well over its budget, primarily due to overtime costs, salaries and benefits.

About a third of that amount came from overtime costs for staff working in Isla Vista during Halloween in 2013, the Deltopia event earlier this year which devolved from a street party into a riot, and personnel responding to the shooting rampage of Elliot Rodger in May, Sheriff Bill Brown said.

It's an "unusual occurrence" for the department to be asking to fund a shortfall, Brown said, adding that the department hasn't asked for funding since 2007.

The department was facing a $1.3 million shortfall this year but can use $300,000 in state and federal asset forfeiture funds to cover frontline law enforcement costs.

The remaining shortfall is due to overtime costs, which account for $900,000, as a result of vacant positions in the Santa Barbara County Jail and other areas.

New staff need six-to-nine months to train and as a result,  two people have to be paid for one position during that training time, Brown said. Twenty-five new hires exacerbated the problem.

Overtime costs for the three Isla Vista incidents added up to $85,000 for Halloween, $90,000 for Deltopia and an early estimate of $100,000 for the Isla Vista shootings.

Brown said that the the upside to Halloween was that it "was an injury-free and sexual-assault-free" event.

Ironically, increased police presence at Halloween and Deltopia had dissuaded Rodger from acting out his plans during those times, Brown said.

The department has also seen a marked increase in psychiatric beds needed for inmates, resulting in costs of $300,000, and the department's prescription drug costs are also $100,000 higher than anticipated, he said.

The increased funding was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors. 

Earlier in the meeting, a more controversial Sheriff's Department budget item came up with a contract to hire five deputies to provide law enforcement services on the reservation of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Staff would likely backfill with overtime to fill the duties of the five deputies going to serve the reservation, Brown said.

The supervisors ultimately voted 3-2, with Supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Salud Carbajal dissenting, to have a revised contract come back at a later date.

The tribe had offered to pay $850,000 for the contract, but several members of the public raised eyebrows, saying that the language of the contract was too vague and wouldn't indemnify the county from potential lawsuits.

The contract doesn't include a waiver of the tribe's sovereign immunity, which means the county couldn't enforce the contract in court, according to county counsel.

Others argued that the Sheriff's Department is already servicing the area. 

“It’s amazing to me that we have to ask you to take our money to provide services that are extremely important to not only the reservation, but the entire Santa Ynez Valley,” tribal chairman Vincent Armenta said.

Armenta issued a statement after the meeting stating that the tribe will not be renegotiating the contract.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district contains the reservation, said she fully supports the Sheriff's Department having the resources to enforce safety in the valley.

"Sometimes the way (a contract) is written is not careful enough and not protective of the county," she said. "That's the way I feel about this contract now." 

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf agreed, saying it wasn't an enforceable contract.

"That's the number-one problem," she said. 

"We're already responding to the casino," Lavagnino said.

Carbajal agreed, adding that the tribe was providing $850,000 that would otherwise come from the county's general fund.

"For me it's pretty straightforward," he said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

comments powered by Disqus

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.