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Key position cut at local drug court program
By CHARLIE BERMANT
Kitsap County writer
Confusion about the date of a federal grants expiration combined with a budget crisis in Kitsap County government has resulted in the elimination of a key employee from the local Drug Court program.
Beginning Jan. 1, a probation officers position ran out of funding. Subsequently, the county is scrambling to find temporary support for the $60,000-per-year job.
This is a key position, said Drug Court Manager Cherie Lusk. Losing it is a very big deal.
He is very important to the program, Drug Court graduate Sandra Johnston of Bremerton said of the probation supervisor. The people in the program are accountable to him. If he is not there, people will get away with a lot more.
The Drug Court program is continuing to operate during the search for funding alternatives, although without the probation component.
Participants are required to monitor themselves, something Johnston says they cannot do.
Kitsap County funded the position with a $200,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Superior Court Administrator Frank Maiocco said the county did not claim $80,000 of this money by the end of the grant period, assuming it could reapply for the funds that were awarded in the first place.
The court was aware the grant was to expire in 2007, but thought it could secure funds from another grant or the countys general fund.
Just as the county made it clear that such funds were not available, Maiocco learned the grant expired in June rather than September as he previously thought.
By the time the application was submitted, the grant had expired.
Once a grant has expired, it is almost impossible for it to be renewed, Maiocco said. Even if there is money left over from the original amount.
Since the grant expired, we have financed the position through creative ways, Maiocco said. But we are now out of ideas and dont know what to do.
After missing the deadline, the court filed an appeal, which was refused verbally last week.
Maiocco requested written notification as part of a further appeal, but the position remains open.
I dont want to vilify the DOJ, Maiocco said. They have been a great partner so far, and they are only following their own policies.
Maiocco said the court is ready to solicit funds to support the program from both public and private sources.
This position provides essential services to people in the program, he said. He assisted them in meeting their legal obligations and keeping them on track.
Kitsap County Drug Court has 100 participants at a time, twice as many as just four yeas ago. It offers counseling, supervision and regular meetings with a judge as an alternative to incarceration.