Harrison County Sheriff And Supervisors Discuss Jail Budget

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Jail hires and budget concerns collided at the Harrison County board of supervisors meeting Monday morning.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara is requesting a nearly $2 million budget increase to fund 22 new positions at the county's adult detention center. It's part of the ongoing process to increase security at the problem-plagued jail.

It sparked a rather spirited discussion at the board meeting.

"We're making people accountable. And you will see where some positions were vacated, eliminated and people were shifted to areas where they were needed more," said Sheriff Brisolara, after he handed supervisors a paper that lists every employee in the sheriff's department.

The new sheriff is asking supervisors to fill 22 vacancies at the jail.

"They are the positions that we need to get us through with the temporary buildings and to maintain that jail at a security level that we need it to be," said the sheriff.

His request raised concerns about how many positions were created by the previous sheriff, but never okayed by supervisors.

"The whole point is I don't ever remember the board ever approving positions without the appropriate budget amendments to cover 'em," said supervisor Marlin Ladner.

"I want an exact number from the person that's in charge of administering the county as to what the budget says. I'm not questioning you sheriff, but there's so much confusion, even between the two of y'all," said supervisor Kim Savant, pointing to the apparent confusion between Brisolara and county administrator Pam Ulrich.

"It's important that you all look at this information right here. Look at this figure right here," said Sheriff Brisolara, pointing to his printed break down of hirings and budget costs.

The board attorney reminded supervisors where the specific responsibility lies.

"You're back to the same old problem. You don't have any authority folks, other than money," said attorney Joe Meadows.

"No one was authorized to hire anybody above the approved budget without an appropriate budget amendment. And that's where we get into all these problems," supervisor Ladner reminded the board.

"There's no hiding anything here. It's all in front of you here. There's no ghost figures. No ghost people. If you look at this you'll see where everybody who's getting a paycheck is working," the sheriff said.

Supervisors commended the sheriff for his openness and willingness to work with the board.

They took no action Monday, but instructed the sheriff to get with the county administrator to work out specific costs and make certain the hiring and budget figures are accurate.

The board will likely revisit the issue at its next meeting.