May 21, 2013

Somerset County sues state over withheld $280K jail payment

Suit is latest twist in dispute over county's decision to use federal funds to pay down jail debt

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Somerset County Jail Assistant Administrator Maj. Cory Swope speaks with female inmates at the East Madison jail on Tuesday. Somerset County officials filed a civil action case against the state Board of Corrections for $280,000 in funds the state has withheld in an ongoing dispute with the county.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong said in April that one of the Somerset County Jail's four pods has been closed for renovations and will not reopen until the matter of missing payments from the state is resolved.

Tausek said the board voted earlier this month to fund jails based on their need in the fourth quarter. Somerset County did not ask the board for fourth-quarter funding, Tausek said, and the suit does not address that payment.

In response to the state board, DeLong stopped accepting out-of-county inmates in March, even though the jail is one of four flagship county jails statewide, created under the 2008 Jail Consolidation Act.

Somerset County commissioners also voted in April to downgrade three jail guards working full time to reserve status in the wake of continued conflict with the state over the boarding of inmates.

The maximum capacity at the jail in East Madison is 234 inmates. Population reached a recent high of 180 inmates in October and a new low mark in April with 138, according to Bragg.

The civil suit contends that the Board of Corrections' vote not to make the third quarter payment to Somerset County was an "unlawful procedure" done in the privacy of an executive session, without input from county officials or the public.

The board "failed to explain the factual or legal basis" for refusing to approve the payment, according to the court document. In addition, the board does not have the authority to apply federal revenues received by Somerset County to offset money due from the state, the document reads.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com

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