Opinion expected Friday

Published 9:15 am Thursday, January 17, 2013

Could determine who runs 911

A prosecutor’s opinion on the legality of removing 911 dispatching from the Lawrence County Sheriff could come on Friday.

Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson continues to research past Lawrence County Commission minutes to determine which statute of the Ohio Revised Code would apply.

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“We are researching old commission records on how they established the system and that makes a difference,” Anderson said.

On July 1, 1996 an emergency dispatching system began in the county. However, Anderson said he needs to know if the commissioners wanted a 911 system or a public safety communications system set up

“There is a specific statute in the ORC that governs countywide public safety communication systems,” he said. “That has delayed us issuing an opinion. We have to determine how the commission did that back in the early 1990s.”

On Friday, Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens asked for a prosecutor’s opinion following the county commissioners pulling the 911 dispatching system from Sheriff Jeff Lawless 10 months after they merged the sheriff and 911 dispatching into a single system.

That action followed Lawless’ requesting additional funds to prevent the layoff of 15 part-time dispatchers, five road deputies and a part-time corrections officer. The split was made on the motion of Commissioner Les Boggs to make 911 an independent agency with a budget of $550,000. Part of that motion was to transfer $220,000 to the sheriff’s office to fund his five dispatchers.

Stephens also sent a letter to the county commission requesting clarification on instructions the commission sent to the auditor.

“It is hard to tell exactly what money is to be moved to which account and taken from which account,” Stephens said on Friday.

The auditor is seeking the clarifications in order to know who has the authority to approve payroll and purchase orders out of the 911 dispatching fund.

“We will wait until Friday,” Stephens said on Wednesday. “Everybody is going to get paid. It is a matter of where. If we need to do accounting to correct something. But we are wanting to do it right the first time.”