LOWVILLE — Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli and the Board of Legislators will attempt to move beyond the controversy over the sheriff’s department’s spending and potential for being over budget by the end of the year, but disagreement over what happened in a July 9 meeting has added to the challenge.
After Undersheriff Jason MacIntosh, County Manager Ryan Piche, District 10 Legislator and Assistant Board of Legislators Chairman Gerald King met the sheriff in his office, there appeared to be limited progress and both sides seemed ready to find a solution in the General Services Committee meeting at 1 p.m. July 23 in the County Legislative Board Meeting Room at the County Courthouse on North State Street..
“The goal is to try to resolve the issue in a professional manner, not to make it personal,” said Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche on July 22.
Sheriff Carpinelli said he would also like to fix the situation but doesn’t have much faith in the good intentions of the board.
“I’ve done everything they asked. I put the Rec Patrol back on as much as we can and the patrols were on at the fair,” said Sheriff Carpinelli in a July 16 interview, ”But now I’ve been told they’re not going to hold up their end of the bargain.”
It was Sheriff Carpinelli’s understanding, he said, that if he reinstated the patrols, the $22,000 he had budgeted for additional long guns for road patrols, including a $2,300 National Rifle Association grant, would be released so that he could pay the vendor.
The impression of the board, however, was that while it was a “productive” meeting, the situation would be discussed and resolved in the committee meeting July 23.
“At that meeting, no agreement was reached because that is a board decision to be made,” said Board Chairman Lawrence Dolhoff, who was not at the meeting but has since spoken to everyone present.
The budgeting tension that has been building for the eight years Sheriff Carpinelli has been in office hit an all-time high when the sheriff was informed by the county budget officer, Mr. Piche, that his “discretionary spending,” including the purchase of the long guns, would be put on hold until the fourth quarter of the year once it became clear the department would not be over budget again.
While the sheriff’s overall budget is still on track for halfway through the year, the department’s overtime budget for road patrols is over 81 percent spent and jail overtime is more than 210 percent over budget.
Throughout the debate, the board and Mr. Piche have stated every department has a budget they must work within, even if it means they can’t do everything they would like with their department.
“I will never say we designed the perfect budget, but we hope we give enough money to each department to operate and make it through the year,” said Mr. Piche.
The board also said the sheriff doesn’t supply them with the same reports and data like other department heads, making it difficult to understand why his department was over budget by more than $170,000 last year and is on track to be over by at least $100,000 this year if overtime spending continues at its current rate.
Sheriff Carpinelli has said that the board doesn’t understand what it takes to keep the county safe and always under-funds his department.
His most immediate consideration, however, is to get the money to pay the long guns vendor.
Mr. Carpinelli went outside of protocol by ordering the guns before putting in a purchase order and getting approval from Mr. Piche, the budget officer.
The sheriff said he believed approval wasn’t necessary for something that was included as a line item in an already approved budget.