The public rift between Crawford County commissioners and Sheriff Nick Hoke over a $250 budget cut is troubling.
Hoke asked that $250 the commissioners cut from the Sheriff's Office budget for medical supplies be restored — using county reserve money.
Hoke budgeted $675 for medical trauma kits for each of the Sheriff's Office vehicles and disposable latex gloves to protect deputies but received only $425 because of the county's budget mess.
The trauma kits have basic medical supplies to protect officers and the public alike in case of a medical emergency. The latex gloves protect deputies when they search people or items.
These are necessary items, and we fully back the purchases to protect officers as well as the public, but we're questioning Hoke's methods.
Hoke publicly asked for $250 out of county reserve funds to pay for those supplies. During his more than 11 years in office, Hoke said he's never asked for frivolous items — only what is needed — and we agree with Hoke's assessment.
“And, historically since I’ve been here I haven’t used my whole budget,” Hoke told commissioners.
It's laudable Hoke watches his budget closely each year — having money left over so it can be shifted where he needs it.
When commissioners pointed that fact out, Hoke said moving money around was “robbing Peter to pay Paul” because where money is shifted eventually needs its full funding. Hoke said he'll shift money as needed to pay for the items but promised to return when the area that lost money has a financial need.
“You took money out of an area that’s crucial to the safety of my deputies and I don’t appreciate it — at least without having the opportunity to retalk to you,” Hoke said.
Hoke said he didn't get an opportunity to speak to commissioners after budget cuts were made, so he spoke out publicly at last Wednesday's meeting.
It's troubling on two points — timing and money.
Hoke's public outburst came Feb. 27 — two months after the county's 2019 budget passed on Dec. 27, 2018. Plus, Hoke readily admitted publicly he always has money left within his budget each year.
The budget crunch created by the commissioners' lack of fiscal foresight and leadership required cuts and the raising of property taxes to get the 2019 budget balanced.
The county's financial troubles were documented during November and December as the county worked on a 2019 budget which ended up with a 14.4 percent hike in real estate taxes.
The public spoke out during the process, so why didn't Sheriff Hoke or someone he designated from the Sheriff's Office speak out then?
For Hoke to claim he wasn't given the opportunity to speak with commissioners about a $250 cut for safety items after budget cuts were being made doesn't ring true. It was publicly known that in late 2018 commissioners were going line-by-line through the budget and making cuts.
Hoke's speaking out publicly on the 2019 county budget about 60 days after its final passage — over a $250 item he publicly admits he should be able to pay for anyway — looks like grandstanding.