The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office and Count Board continue to struggle to find common ground when it comes to budget issues.
In an attempt to avoid heated arguments and back and forth in the future, Finance Committee Chairman Ted Biondo says he’s considering setting a staffing level for sworn deputies at the sheriff’s office. He says when it comes down to it, this isn’t the board’s way of trying to run the department, but rather holding Sheriff Gary Caruana to the funds the board says it can provide.
"That’s using state statute because this gentleman will not do what the law says. He keeps coming up with I have to provide service, I have to do this, I have to do that," says Biondo. "But then if that’s the case and you’re spending 70% of the budget when you should only be spending 60%, then 10% will only be cut from somewhere else."
Sheriff Caruana says if this happens, he hopes the right people are in the room.
"I hope moving downstream, if that’s done, we’re brought in, law enforcement is brought in because there’s staffing models out there we can use," says Caruana. "Hopefully it’s not done in a retaliatory way."
Caruana says he’s fearful the staffing number set would be too low. Which he says would have a direct impact on vital, life-saving services like Orders of Protections or investigations at murder scenes.
"We’ll call the coroners, we’ll have to remove the bodies, we’ll call it crime scene. And when we have the people to investigate it, whether it’s in an 8 to 5, whatever that matrix may be. It’ll have to wait."
Sheriff Caruana also says there’s roughly 160 lawsuits against his department when it comes to lockdowns at the county jail. Which he says were caused due to staffing shortages after budget cuts. But he says that could be just the beginning of the lawsuits.
"We’re going to get sued for failure to train, we’re going to get sued for failure to supervise, I don’t have supervisors out there."
The debate will continue this Thursday at the Winnebago County Board meeting. The new fiscal year begins October 1st.