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Agreement Reached on Use of Drug Funds

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A last-minute disagreement between the County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Jim Roache over who controls funds seized from drug dealers was “nothing more than two attorneys arguing over where the comma goes” and was officially settled Friday, according to Supervisor George Bailey.

County officials announced an agreement earlier this month, but complications between attorneys for both sides arose at mid-week.

At a meeting Friday that included Roache, Bailey and their attorneys, it was agreed that the sheriff would apply to the federal government to use the funds, and that county supervisors would review the application to make certain it met federal guidelines.

“I’m relieved that this is all over with and the issue is behind us,” Roache said. “Now we can proceed with real issues.”

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Differences that arose this week “were more of a misunderstanding than anything else,” he said. “Both sides were saying the same thing with different terminology.”

Federal guidelines allow property or drugs seized in drug raids to be converted into cash and split among the law enforcement agencies that participate. The rules originally held that the money could be used for “general law enforcement purposes only.”

Last year, the rules were changed to require the head of a police agency to submit a request for the funds in writing and to state exactly what they would be used for.

The Board of Supervisors sued then-Sheriff John Duffy last year when county officials discovered that Duffy had deposited the drug money into a checking account without the county’s knowledge.

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Duffy said he did so to bypass the county’s spending authority because he believed the county had illegally spent the money on jail security improvements.

With the matter settled, Roache said he will make his first application from the $2.2 million in drug funds now accrued to establish a regional DNA testing lab. Roache said his department’s share would amount to $258,000.

The sheriff also must reimburse the county’s contingency fund for a $75,000 loan for equipment purchased for an emergency communications patrol car and a $180,000 loan for deputies to patrol Indian reservations.

Beyond that, the department has a list of 20 to 25 projects that need to be funded from drug revenue, including surveillance equipment and computers, Roache said.

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