by Max Brantley
I'll ask more about this later today.
But this is interesting. I've been provided a report from the state Department of Finance and Administration that shows there's an agency of state government sitting on a $3 million fund that has been growing steadily and never been tapped for a dime since it's creation in 2007. It's the Drug Crime Fee Assessment Fund, financed by fees assessed in drug cases. It is supposed to be distributed to aid multi-county drug task forces. No grant has ever been made by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Coordinating Council since the legislature created the fund in 2007. The money just piles up — $800,000 more in fiscal 2011.
There's been a memorandum of understanding signed by two members of the council, a prosecutor, the prosecutor coordinator and a DFA official not to let the fund drop below $2.5 million. Overseers of the fund apparently believe a loss of federal funding will mean the money will have to be spent eventually to replace the lost money and intend to do so with balance in excess of the minimum.
A five-year-old state fund with $3 million (it reached $2.5 million around June 30, 2011) that has never spent a cent and is piling up at the rate of roughly $800,000 a year?
While drug court judges complain of lack of money for treatment programs?
While assistants to the circuit judges who hear the drug cases and assess the fees are threatened with furloughs for lack of state money?
Seems like a place for legitimate inquiry.
Here's the statute that set a $125 fee in drug cases and directed its spending on salary and office overhead for drug task forces. The money is limited to that use by the 2007 law, but it, of course, could be changed once or in an ongoing manner.
As I mentioned in a note to a reader, drug task forces are their own separate cans of worms. Some turned into criminal enterprises in years past.