County changes public safety fund formula, faces pushback from DA’s office

A clash between the county’s district attorney and several county supervisors over how to spend a voter-approved public safety fund veered into the personal Tuesday after District Attorney Tim Kendall made a case for leaving the fund distribution formula intact.

The fund, generated after Proposition 172 (passed in 1994) is supposed to be set aside to fund public safety needs that the state was not meeting.

The funds are currently distributed between the Mono County Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s office, and the Probation Department.

It is not distributed to other public safety organizations such as the paramedic program, which are now funded by county general fund revenues and some TOT revenues.

Supervisor Fred Stump, a former Long Valley Fire Chief, said that was an issue for him.

“This wasn’t what the voters voted for and that bothers me,” he said.

Kendall told the county that reducing the amount the DA’s office would get from the fund would have a “drastic impact” to the DA’s office.

He made his case stating that the Prop. 172 money has allowed his office to meet its constitutional mandates and provide county residents with necessary services, ending it with a comment that he didn’t want to have to “grovel” to the board for funding, should some of the Prop. 172 money get re-allocated.

That set off Supervisor Tim Alpers, who responded with heat.

“You are talking about begging and groveling. How do you know we will not fund you? How do you know you will need to do this?” Alpers said. “You had better sharpen your argument.”
“I have no interest in undermining your department,” Stump said, adding that he was committed to the DA’s office with general fund money, should it be required.

“I recognize the value of the District Attorney’s office and the extra work you have taken on after the Mammoth Lakes Police Department was cut back.”

Stump said he brought up the resolution to change the allocation formula to address the perception that the money from Prop. 172 wasn’t being used in an equitable manner for all of the county’s public safety organizations, including the paramedic program, which now is heavily subsidized by the county’s general fund to the amount of about $2.7 million.

“It’s a matter of doing this in a fair and equitable way,” Stump said, noting the complaints the paramedic program has endured for being funded so heavily from the general fund.

Supervisor Tim Fesko also assured Kendall and the probation and sheriff’s departments that the board was committed to backfilling the departments.

Kendall said he appreciated the supervisors’ willingness to fund the DA’s office, but said it was his duty to fight to protect his office’s funding.

Only Supervisor Larry Johnston opposed the resolution—which required a 4/5 vote to pass—saying he didn’t see the point, since the board was committed to funding the affected departments.

The resolution was passed 4-1, with Johnston in the minority.

The funding allocation formula will be re-addressed on a yearly basis.