San Diego

San Diego County Supervisor Says State Must Pay Courthouse Security Costs

Dianne Jacob says she is frustrated by the 15-month delay in obtaining funding for a tunnel to transport prisoners in the new downtown courthouse

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is demanding the state pay more than $3 million for the annual cost of added security at the new downtown courthouse.

“These are state courts,” Jacob explained. “So it is the state’s responsibility to pay for the security. Period.”

Jacob said she is frustrated by a 15-month delay in the county’s effort to obtain that funding. San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and the county’s Chief Administrative Officer made the request for funds on January 14, 2016. In the request, they cited a government code that says, “funding for increased trial court security costs…shall be funded by the (state) General Fund.”

That code also says “requests...shall be evaluated as expeditiously as possible.”

Jacob told NBC 7 Investigates “the state has its own way of doing business, and they too often move very, very slowly. Way too slow.”

The new downtown courthouse on Union and “C” Streets is scheduled to open in mid-July. Gore says the 22-story highrise presents unique challenges for safety and security, compared to the existing courthouse on Broadway, which had courtrooms on just five floors. Gore’s request for extra funds includes a detailed, 108-page explanation about why he needs 33 additional deputies to guard the lobby, courtroom floors, and other areas.

Several of those deputies will be used to transport prisoners back and forth from the county jail to the new courthouse, two blocks away. Gore says he also needs specially-equipped vans for those secure transports. That extra, costly security is necessary, he says, because the state Judicial Council, which supervised construction of the courthouse, decided not to fund construction of a tunnel, the sheriff and San Diego Superior Court Judge Runston Maino say would safely, conveniently and economically move prisoners between the jail and courthouse.

Judge Maino is also critical of state's slow response to the funding request. "The Judicial council created this problem by their... misrepresentations that the (prisoner transport) tunnel was in the budget," Maino told NBC 7 Investigates. "Now, the state wants to push their misrepresentation off on to the county taxpayers, and this is just not right. The state needs to clean up the mess that (it has) created."

In an April 6 response to questions about the funding delay, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance told NBC 7 Investigates his department is “indeed in receipt of the (January 2016) request and it's currently under review. (We) don't have a fixed time (or range) on when that review will be done..." After this story was published, that spokesman supplied more information about the delay. "As a rule, we normally do not respond to counties until a time closer to the opening date, in order for us to have the latest information regarding operating/staffing complements," the spokesman wrote in an email. The spokesman said the Department of Finance expects to have a response to the county "within the month (of May)."

Sheriff Gore declined a request for an interview, but his spokesman confirmed the department has hired the additional deputies with funds from his department budget because “ was important to have the staff trained and in place as soon as the courthouse open(s).”

The Sheriff also spent $450,000 for the one-time cost of equipment and supplies. He estimates the annual, on-going cost of the added security is $3.3 million, increasing yearly for inflation and pay raises.

San Diego County spokesman Mike Workman said the county believes the state will eventually approve the request for funds, and pay at least a portion of the $3.6 million requested for the fiscal year 2015-16. Workman told NBC 7 Investigates the money would come from the state's mid-year budget revision, which should be completed in May. That funding must also be approved by the state legislature.

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