Jury to decide sheriff's budget - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Jury to decide sheriff's budget

Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba

May 24, 2004

Albany-- Today, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling that the case should not go to jury trial.

It's been almost a year since Sheriff Jamil Saba sued county commissioners for cutting $300,000 from his budget. 

In September, a Superior Court judge ruled the county was wrong and must reinstate the money. The county appealed. Monday, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and ordered a jury trail.

Dougherty County Sheriff's investigators spend the afternoon serving warrants. Sheriff Jamil Saba says they're also needed to solve crimes, but some of them would lose their jobs if county commissioners cut his budget. That's why the Sheriff sued the county last summer. "I think we need to settle this thing and go to work," said Sheriff Saba.

The Supreme Court settled at least one dispute over who should decide if county commissioners overstepped their constitutional bounds by cutting the money. The Supreme Court ruled the case will go before a jury.

"The county was fully ready to litigate this case," said County Attorney Spencer Lee. "Let the general public know what it did."

The Supreme Court ruling also states "The county commission has the power to cut the budget of an elected constitutional county officer, but the county commission's changes to the budget, may be judicially reviewed for abuse of discretion."

The county attorney says that abuse never happened. "The county felt they gave the sheriff a sufficient amount of money to perform his duties that are required by law," said Lee.

The Sherrif disagrees. "We're down to the nitty gritty already," said Saba. "When I put my budget in, we put it in for exactly what it's going to cost us. I never pad it."

Whatever the outcome of this case, lawyer's fees continue to pile up which is a cost paid by taxpayers. With no trail date set and lengthy depositions and court hearings in the future, the controversy over the Sheriff's budget could end up costing taxpayers well more than the $300,000 in question.

The Supreme Court also ruled the county must pay for the Sheriff's lawyer's fees.

posted at 5:50PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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