It looks like our esteemed District Attorney is changing his story again. You may remember that he told the Hinds County Board of Supervisors two weeks ago that he needed more money because the Sheriff was not giving him his forfeiture money. Well, that story changed as the Clarion-Ledger reported:
At a Feb. 17 supervisors meeting, Smith asked for an additional $10,000 a month from the county. He first asked for the extra money for 12 months, but he ended up agreeing to request seven months. In that meeting, he said the reason he needed the money was that he hadn't received the expected amount in seizure funds from the Sheriff's Department. On Thursday, though, Smith corrected the record and said that money was not figured into his budget. Rather, he said, the expenses eating up his funding have to do with the worthless check unit.
"The check unit is where we experience a downturn, and so that happens and has happened over the years — and we anticipated that — so in anticipation of the shortfall, we asked for additional money ahead of time," he said.
District 4 Supervisor Tony Greer had called Smith out, saying he was acting inconsistently with state law if he planned on forfeiture funds to fill the gaps in his budget. Smith said that's not what he did.
"We know that the forfeiture funds will be different, and we can't anticipate what that amount will be so we don't figure that into our budget when we make our budget request," Smith said. "If you go back and look at our original request, we looked at money that we needed based on financial analysis in our office." Rest of article.
The problem is that is not what he told the supervisors. Here is the video. He starts his presentation out by blaming the Sheriff's office for a lack of forfeiture money. Bases his whole argument on that little assertion.
Several Supervisors told the D.A. to bring his budget when he earlier met with them on an individual basis. They meant bring the ledger and show line by line where he was spending his money. He did not do that at this meeting as requested and its quite clear in the video that he was rather clueless about his budget.
The forfeiture money in question has to be requested. Mr. Smith had not formally requested any forfeiture money from the court when he made that accusation against the Sheriff. Mississippi Code Section 41-29-181 provides the procedures for disposing of seized funds:
(2) All other property, real or personal, which is forfeited under this article, except as otherwise provided in Section 41-29-185, and except as provided in subsections (3), (7) and (8) of this section, shall be liquidated and, after deduction of court costs and the expenses of liquidation, the proceeds shall be divided and deposited as follows:The Sheriff can't keep the money due the District Attorney. However, the D.A. can't get it if he never asked for it as well. The story also does not mention that Judge Tomie Green is sitting on nearly half a million dollars in forfeiture money and has been doing so for quite some time (You don't think the battle of the bailiffs has anything to do with it, do you? Nah.). The law requires the D.A. to ask the court for his share of the money.
(a) In the event only one (1) law enforcement agency participates in the underlying criminal case out of which the forfeiture arises, twenty percent (20%) of the proceeds shall be forwarded to the State Treasurer and deposited in the General Fund of the state and eighty percent (80%) of the proceeds shall be deposited and credited to the budget of the participating law enforcement agency.
(b) In the event more than one (1) law enforcement agency participates in the underlying criminal case out of which the forfeiture arises, eighty percent (80%) of the proceeds shall be deposited and credited to the budget of the law enforcement agency whose officers initiated the criminal case and twenty percent (20%) shall be divided equitably between or among the other participating law enforcement agencies, and shall be deposited and credited to the budgets of the participating law enforcement agencies. In the event that the other participating law enforcement agencies cannot agree on the division of their twenty percent (20%), a petition shall be filed by any one of them in the court in which the civil forfeiture case is brought and the court shall make an equitable division....
(3) All money which is forfeited under this article, except as otherwise provided by Section 41-29-185, shall be divided, deposited and credited in the same manner as set forth in subsection (2) of this section.
It will be interesting to see what song the D.A. sings for the Board of Supervisors today at the regular meeting as the discussion of his budget is on the agenda.