Late last year, Sheriff Mark Garber sued Lafayette Consolidated Government. He claimed that LCG was not paying enough for services received. Not much has happened publicly since the lawsuit was filed under the Robideaux administration. However, behind the scenes some shocking revelations have been made, followed by more questions that have yet to be answered.
This old news is relevant today because Lafayette’s joint council is working through Josh Guillory’s new budget. That document includes an approximate $2 million increase for the jail, which falls under the Sheriff’s purview. The change isn’t obvious in this year’s current proposed budget. That’s because, at some point in the year, the city-parish council modified the budget by adding nearly one million dollars to the jail’s expenses.
We can only see these changes by reviewing last year’s budget alongside this year’s proposed budget. On page 118 of last year’s (2019-20) adopted budget, total expenses are $6,051,423. However, page 107 of this year’s (2020-21) proposed budget cites last year’s budget as $7,095,217. That’s a $1,043,794 increase between the two documents for the exact same thing in the exact same year. The 2020-2021 proposed budget for this is $7,806,414, or an additional $711,197. The grand total of the difference between this year’s proposed budget and last year’s adopted budget now rests at a $1,754,991 increase. If we count a $300,000 budget amendment (PO-042-2020) that’s coming before the council on Tuesday, September 1st, that makes the overall increase $2,054,991.
Isn’t the parish broke?
For years, they’ve been telling us the parish is broke. So, where’s that $1.8 million coming from? The entire thing can be accounted for in a City Police budget reduction of $1,807,752 (page 149 of Guillory’s 2020-2021 proposed budget). If we instead compare the originally adopted budget column, the defunding of city police is a much more significant $3,049,869. This also doesn’t include the $1,250,000 in “jailer services” (page 151 of the 2020-2021 Proposed budget). Although that money appears in the City Police budget, it goes directly to the Sheriff. Since last year’s adopted budget, jailer services expenses for City Police have gone up 25% from $1,000,000 to $1,250,000. That original million is on page 167 of the 2019-2020 adopted budget.
Add to this another $550,000 that the city-parish council added to the parish jail’s budget for “jailer services” last year, and the Sheriff has now gained $2,554,001 in additional revenue. That $550,000 upgrade appeared on page 118 of the 2019-2020 adopted budget. That expense is continued this year on page 107 of the proposed 2020-2021 budget.
Add in another $1 MILLION in indirect higher costs
According to an internal audit of out-of-parish mandays (the cost of sending Lafayette Parish prisoners to other parish prisons), LCG’s expenses have risen from $28,430 to $955,247 in just two years after Garber took over as Sheriff. That’s a thirty-two fold (32x) increase, or more than three-thousand percent (3,259.99% to be exact).
These increased expenses are not directly benefiting the Sheriff. However, a policy of filling up the jail with out-of-parish prisoners would. That’s exactly what’s being proposed by the response to Garber’s lawsuit. Vis: “Upon information and belief, Lafayette Parish prisoners have been ‘replaced’ by non-parish prisoners at the LPCC facility over the years, thereby forcing the Parish to incur significant and unnecessary expenses for housing parish prisoners in out-of-parish facilities.”
That’s because Louisiana state law says he can charge other parishes $25.39 per day to house their prisoners (La. R.S. 15:824 B(1)(a)); compared with charging Lafayette only $3.50 per day (La. R.S. 13:5535(1)). The same is true in reverse, as Lafayette is now allegedly paying other parishes 3,260% more to house the same number of prisoners it had previously housed in-Parish just a few years ago.
Sheriff’s “profits” and other expenses
At the moment, the list of things we don’t know is significant. For example, we don’t know the number of Lafayette Parish prisoners who were sent elsewhere due to insufficient space in the jail. We also don’t know the number of Lafayette Prisoners actually in the jail. Finally, we don’t know how many out-of-parish prisoners are in the jail. If we knew these numbers, it’d be easier to make a more accurate assessment of how much we’re spending compared with how much we should be spending.
This information would also be helpful in finding out how much the Sheriff’s office is making by housing those other parishes’ prisoners. We also don’t know specifically how much the Sheriff may be charging Lafayette Parish for out-of-parish prisoners’ expenses. The lawsuit summarizes it this way: “the Sheriff is unlawfully double-dipping…” and is “unjustly enriched without cause by billing and receiving payments from the Parish for non-parish prisoners’ housing, feeding , medical care, etc.”
The suit goes on to suggest that “the Parish has paid for the transportation of all prisoners (no matter the designation of parish vs. non -parish).” This is another expense we don’t have a handle on just yet. Not only could the Sheriff transport prisoners that belong to other parishes (and bill them for the expense), but it’s suggested that he’s double-dipping by also billing Lafayette to transport those same out-of-parish prisoners.
Add to this that Lafayette’s prisoners who are housed in other parishes must also be transported here any time they are required to appear in court, or for other reasons. That’s another expense that exists for which we don’t know the total.
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