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News Release
Clackamas County Chair Bernard responds to Sheriff Roberts Op-Ed - 02/07/20

February 7, 2020

Sheriff Roberts:

This is in response to your letter of February 6, 2020 requesting a forensic financial analysis of the County’s Finance Department. You claim several inaccuracies in your letter and I want to set the record straight.

The county’s general fund is not in a crisis. There is no mismanagement of public funds. The county has balanced its budget year after year, as is required by state law. The county budget is currently not on a sustainable path due to expenses outpacing revenues. While the county has indeed grown so has the demand for services.

The County Administrator engaged an external financial consultant in December to review the practices and operations of the Finance Department. There was a leadership restructuring of the Finance Department in January. The County Administrator has been transparent with county leadership, including your staff, as well as the public on the challenges the organization is facing in order to ensure a sustainable budget. The Finance Department is already overhauling its systems and procedures including written policies.

There have been no decisions made how the county courthouse project will be funded. The current county budget challenges are not related to the courthouse project. The current planning work on the courthouse project is funded by state dollars. The county is pursuing a new county courthouse at this time because the State of Oregon is paying half the costs of new courthouse construction. Leaving these state dollars on the table would be irresponsible when there is a serious need for a new county courthouse for safety and justice reasons.

Public safety is a top priority of the county and the public. 50% of the county’s general fund currently goes to the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office has received small, but steady, annual increases in general fund contributions to support operations. This current fiscal year, the Sheriff’s Office received $5.5 million in additional general funds to keep your department budget whole. To maintain this level of general fund support to the Sheriff’s Office, other important services that also rely on the general fund, such as juvenile services, victim and family services, veterans services, parks and libraries, all which rank high in public support, will likely be reduced.

Sheriff, your public undermining of county employees and leadership is unfortunate. Tough decisions are being made on a daily basis how to spend public dollars wisely. It is good business sense to look at right-sizing government to align with available resources. With that, the Board of County Commissioners will continue to work with you to adequately fund your operations in a responsible manner, in addition to the many other imperative services the county provides to the public.

Jim Bernard

Chair, Board of County Commissioners

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