Earlier today, during the Clackamas County Budget Committee’s budget hearings, Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith made the comment appearing below.
These comments preceded the committee’s approval of a motion recommending Clackamas County initiate a financial performance audit of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. The motion passed 8-0, with one abstention. This action will ensure overall fiscal transparency and accountability within the Sheriff’s Office.
Chair Smith’s statement:
The Clackamas County Budget Committee approved the FY2023-24 Budget today and recommended a performance audit of the Sheriff’s Office be conducted to improve transparency and oversight.
Today, our Budget Committee passed a budget with the largest spending plan in our history for public safety. Yet, the Sheriff continues to pit her office against our entire public safety programs with the unfounded accusation that we’re taking money away from her law enforcement levy. The evidence is to the contrary.
I’m saddened by the fact that she’s not willing to sit down with our budget staff to figure out an effective way to communicate her budget. She instead relies on delayed and non-transparent information while not reporting her fund balances to us on a monthly basis as every other department in the County does.
It is the Sheriff who has defunded her own program by announcing she was planning to cut 34 positions. Meanwhile, the Board of County Commissioners is defending law enforcement with a budget that preserves positions. What a cruel irony that is.
And it’s a lie that’s perpetuated on every single employee of the Sheriff’s office, and it’s a cruel lie perpetuated on the public. I will not stand for that. The question that we all need to ask, including the media, is: 'Why is she doing this?' Sheriff Brandenburg, what are you afraid of if we take a deep dive into your budget?
We have guaranteed her more money should there ever be a shortfall. Our County Administrator has guaranteed more money if what she says is true, but we know it’s not likely to be true – that’s why we made the guarantee. But yet, she still won’t accept that – after we said that on Monday night. After we said that Tuesday, she still went out in the media and continued to spread fear and espouse her lie.
Yesterday, District Attorney John Wentworth spoke the key truth: "The replacement of the courthouse is essential to do our work and law enforcement. Public safety does not end when a Clackamas County deputy arrives at the scene."
There is an entire path: Officer arrives at the scene, someone is arrested or not, taken to jail, they are arraigned, they are prosecuted from the DA, and are heard in a court of law which we have in Clackamas County. And we are very deficient in having court space to prosecute criminals, and that’s why it was very important that we replace this courthouse.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a 50% funding match from the state of Oregon to do this because the Oregon judicial system saw that counties were not building courthouses because we couldn’t afford them. The Oregon Judicial System reminded us all that it is a core constitutional duty that counties supply courthouses. It’s not exactly our choice, but they are affording us a pathway to do this, and we can do this. The only thing we’ve asked from the Sheriff is the same thing we’ve asked from every single department – reduce your redundancies, quit building systems that not only are ineffective but duplicative, and come and sit down with us and let’s go over the budget.