Sheriff says his comments 'misinterpreted'

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— On Sept. 7, 2011, during a meeting to introduce the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Foundation, county Sheriff John Turner unveiled his intention to ask for a $2 million increase in his 2012 budget.

“I can’t in good conscience not ask for this,” Turner told the audience gathered at the Walla Walla Regional Airport. “All of it goes for people, equipment and training.”

Turner’s preliminary budget requests confirmed his statement. His preliminary budget request for 2012 was about $6.2 million, which was $2 million over the 2011 current expense appropriation.

However, during a workshop on the sheriff’s 2013 budget last week with commissioners Perry Dozier, Jim Johnson and Greg Tompkins, Turner said his budget increase request had been “misinterpreted.”

Turner’s recorded comments in regards to the matter were as follows:

“Because we’ve talked about these things now for about 18 months and as you know we’ve given you presentations in executive session and just gave a similar one to Commissioner Johnson, and last year during that executive session I think we pretty much all agreed on the deficiencies and the shortcomings and last year I was unable to get an idea as to what your priorities would be. So what I did was I put a dollar figure to everything we identified in that executive session to address those risks and those liabilities and I told Commissioner Loney at the time, because he was chairing the budget committee, ‘I’m just going to submit everything to you that we’ve discussed and give you gentlemen an opportunity to pick and choose what you might like,’ and that was misinterpreted as me asking for two million more dollars. Of course I wasn’t asking for two million more dollars and I think that I made that pretty clear to you and to Commissioner Loney, you, meaning, I know we’re on the record, Commissioner Dozier, our liaison, in hopes to say ‘Hey, here’s the full-meal deal of everything that we’ve talked about, if possible could you pick and choose some priorities, you know, here it is,’ and unfortunately, publicly, it was expressed that, you know, ‘the sheriff’s crazy, he’s asking for two million more dollars’ and that, in fact, wasn’t the case at all.

“So this year, we just like a little ... I’m more than happy to submit things that we can agree on and find some common ground ... and then build those plans going forward five years, 10 years ... But as far as what we submit, in order to avoid the misinterpretation that occurred last year it would really be great to have some idea, because we’ve talked about these things for a long, long time.”

When asked to clarify his reference to holding an executive session with commissioners, Turner said today that while he did meet in closed session with commissioners in 2011, they discussed risks and liabilities but not his proposed budget. Commissioner Greg Tompkins also said that at the executive session, Turner laid out “deficiencies and possible legal issues” regarding the Sheriff’s Office, but did not discuss his budget. “We wouldn’t let him do that,” Tompkins said.

Turner also said today that the news article on the Sept. 7 meeting misinterpreted his remarks.

“People read that and they told me, ‘Boy, we’re not even on the same planet,’” Turner said about how the article characterized his remarks.

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