DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County officials say they do not understand why Sheriff Jeff Johnson sued the Board of Commissioners for a bigger slice of the 2018 budget when he had nearly $400,000 left in the 2017 budget he failed to spend.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said, “He actually had about $500,000 left in the budget while we were going through the court hearing. But he reimbursed his staff for accrued leave that was left unpaid at the end of 2016.”
Johnson sued the county in Superior Court, claiming the Board of Commissioners abused their discretion by not providing enough funding for him to adequately perform his responsibilities as sheriff in 2018.
Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop ruled in favor of the county, stating, “(Commissioners) exercised their discretion in a reasonable fashion. They have honored their obligation to do so giving all due consideration to the needs of the sheriff and to the entire fiscal picture of Dawson County and its citizens, of which the sheriff’s duties are a key part – but not the only part.”
An end-of-year financial report obtained from Finance Director Vickie Neikirk Friday showed Johnson had $397,319.58 remaining on Dec. 31. That is more than enough to pay for the new computer aided dispatch (CAD) system the sheriff wanted and to pay his staff for their accrued leave time, which went unpaid for nearly two years. Under the county’s financial protocol, that money must not be returned to the county’s General Fund.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines is one commissioner who said the lawsuit – which cost taxpayers about $20,000 in legal fees – made no sense.
Gaines said he does not know if Johnson was aware he had close to $400,000 left in his 2017 budget. However, he questioned why the sheriff needed more money when he did not spend the money he had.
“My goal is for each department to know what their budget is and use it to provide the best service to citizens they can,” he said.
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