Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara told the Sun Herald he “called bullsh–” to the Board of Supervisors last year when they refused to pick up longevity pay for sheriff’s office employees because they couldn’t afford them for other county employees.
Brisolara gave veteran employees additional money last year based on their years of service as an incentive. The extra pay came from drug-forfeiture money and totalled about $300,000. It gave longterm employees $1,000 or more per year.
The sheriff said supervisors had agreed to add that amount to his budget for the current year, but changed their minds over budget concerns. Supervisors noted there wasn’t money in county coffers to give other employees longevity pay.
“I called bullsh–,” Brisolara said, pointing to the supervisors’ discretionary account and other possible sources of money. “If they would streamline their own offices and get rid of non-essential personnel, they could afford to offer it to other employees, too,” he said.
Brisolara said he cut out the longevity pay “because they fought me so hard on it.”
Sheriff Brisolara’s mercenary drug cops received $1,645,473 in forfeiture money that they funneled through the Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program in 2010. In 2009, that total was $$1,230,241. I do not have information on any forfeiture totals that the Sheriff Brisolara was able to retain under Mississippi state law, but it is clear that this department is awash in forfeiture cash.
Moreover, Sheriff Brisolara’s request may be prima facie illegal. If these forfeiture funds are indeed solely derived from participation in the Equitable Sharing Program, they may not be used to fund salaries (with a few exceptions that do not apply here). From the DOJ Guide to State and Local Participation in Equitable Sharing (2009):
Salaries—Equitable sharing monies may not be used to pay the salaries and benefits of current, permanent law enforcement personnel, except in limited circumstances. The purpose of this rule is to protect the integrity of the asset forfeiture and equitable sharing programs so that the prospect of receiving equitable sharing monies does not influence, or appear to influence, law enforcement decisions.
But it is clear to me that the biggest issue here is simply the Sheriff’s arrogance and unwillingness to accept the decisions of the elected officials whose duty it is to appropriate funds and control spending on behalf of the taxpayers who elected them. Such behavior is common to law enforcement agencies who have become addicted to the torrent of forfeiture money flowing through their department.