SANDPOINT - A request to transfer almost $11,000 to the sheriff's budget so the department can buy more bullet-proof vests is back on Bonner County commissioners' agenda.
But how it got there was an apparent mystery Tuesday.
Last week, the sheriff's office requested $10,789 from the Justice Fund's statutory reserve so the money could be used as a match for a $21,597 grant to pay for new vests because deputies were using vests past their recommended lifespan. Commissioners Dale Van Stone and Brian Orr agreed to the transfer, but Commissioner Bud Mueller voted against it, which prevented
the money from being shifted between budgets.
Mueller used the transfer request as a bargaining chip in an attempt to persuade the Sheriff's Guild to drop its lawsuit against the county. The guild is accusing the county of stashing money that could be used to purchase more equipment and to hire more deputies and jailers.
Mueller said the guild's suit is bleeding the county and its taxpayers and though he agreed deputies needed more vests, he quashed the transfer request, which prompted criticism from deputies and some county officials.
This week, the item resurfaced on the agenda, though no county officials will own up to putting it there.
Commissioners' secretaries gave differing accounts of how it came to be on the agenda, while Van Stone assumed Mueller had the item put back on the agenda.
"I'm not sure how it got back on there. It must have been Bud because I didn't request it," Van Stone said Tuesday.
"I think he's had a lot of pressure to reconsider it," he added.
Mueller, meanwhile, assumes Van Stone put it back on the agenda.
"I thought Dale did for sure," he said. "I didn't get there till noon and it was there when I got there."
Orr could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Nonetheless, the budget transfer may pass the board on the required unanimous vote when it meets Thursday at 10 a.m. in the county courthouse.
"It's kind of his (Mueller's) call right now because people know where Brian and I stand on it," said Van Stone.
Mueller said he hasn't made up his mind yet but he's leaning toward approving the budget transfer.
"I'm still digging. I would like a little more information before I go one way or the other with it, but I'm probably going to pass it," said Mueller.
Mueller said the county just received another bill stemming from the guild suit for around $1,350.
"It (the suit's cost) just keeps growing and it isn't going anywhere. That puts it up over $10,000," said Mueller, calling the suit a "dead end" issue.
"When judges can legislate what we do in the budget, that's the end of freedom."