Eastern District Court of Appeals Judge Roy L. Richter has ordered the Franklin County Commission to fully fund the budget request of Presiding Judge Ike Lamke.
The decision by the court of appeals will cost the county an additional $382,823 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020.
According to court documents, the appeals court ruled Thursday that the commission is directed to immediately appropriate the total 2020 court’s budget estimate as submitted by the court in the amount of $921,331, including the amount budgeted for the juvenile court departments in the amount of $716,346.
Judge Richter also directed the commission to disburse the 2020 court budget as appropriated, including, but not limited to, immediately paying salaries and providing employee benefits to juvenile court personnel, including Elizabeth Carr and Cynthia D’Onofrio, and paying other expenses of the juvenile court as they arise.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said he received news of the ruling late Thursday evening and is very disappointed and unhappy with the judge’s decision.
“The ruling is what it is,” Brinker said. “This is the first time an appeals court has ruled to put state employees on a county payroll. It has opened a Pandora’s Box. Who do these mandated employees report to? Where does their retirement and benefits come from? What happens if there is a workers’ compensation claim?”
Brinker added the county plans to comply with the judge’s ruling and is working to find funds to meet the mandated budget requirements set forth in the ruling.
“We are scrambling right now,” Brinker said. “Every employee of the county can look at this and say ‘there goes our raises,’ thanks to unfunded state mandates.”
While the county is abiding by the decision, Brinker says he will continue to make the case that state employees should be paid by the state and county employees should be paid by the county.
“This is by no means over and we will be vehemently pursuing it in court,” Brinker said. “This cannot stand the way it is presently.”
Writ of Mandamus
The writ of mandamus was filed by 20th Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Ike Lamke against the Franklin County Commission and former Auditor Tammy Vemmer in the Eastern District Court of Appeals.
A (writ of) mandamus is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.
The action stemmed from budget cuts made by the commission this year to the juvenile courts.
According to court documents, Lamke requested $921,331 for all court services. The amount requested for the juvenile courts for 2020 was $716,346.
Instead the county appropriated only $538,508 in the 2020 budget for the courts, leaving a $382,823 shortfall.
The writ also stated the juvenile court employees were informed their employment and benefits, including health insurance, were terminated effective Dec. 31, 2019, and they had been working without pay since the beginning of the year.
Brinker said during budget discussions last fall and as early as 2018 Judge Lamke was informed the county would be cutting the amount of money they would pay to the lowest amount required by state statute.