Manatee County hopes to recoup detention overpayments to state

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 25, 2013 

MANATEE -- Manatee County will join seven other counties trying to recoup $757,573 it claims to have overpaid the state last year for juvenile detention costs.

The Manatee County Commission decided Tuesday to join other counties who had hired a Tallahassee law firm to intervene on their behalf.

Any cost after the initial pleadings will be split, said Commissioner Michael Gallen.

"If you don't play, you can't win," said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino, thanking Gallen for his hard work on the matter.

"Our intervention is certainly no guarantee the county will ultimately realize any financial benefit," said County Attorney Mickey Palmer. "But it's probably better to be at the table than not."

Any repayment or credit would be "totally at the discretion of the state Legislature, ultimately," he said.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice began shifting juvenile detention costs to the counties in 2004. R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of the circuit court and comptroller, did an audit to determine the amount overpaid in 2011-12. The county reportedly paid for 2,889 days for which it was charged in error, amounting to $757,573, the audit found.

Last summer, in response to an appellate Florida court ruling, the Dwepartment of Juvenile Justice reduced the amount it bills all counties for juvenile detention effective immediately.

In June, the First District Court of Florida ruled the Department of Juvenile Justice was improperly forcing counties to pay more than their fair share for juvenile detention. In Manatee County, the ruling meant total yearly billing for juvenile detention will be cut 57 percent from more than $1.4 million to less than $600,000.

"I was thrilled that they adjusted the amount we owe," Gallen told the Herald in July. "The courts had decided they were overcharging us and all the counties." Counties are billed monthly for juvenile detention costs by the state.

Manatee County was billed $118,869 in July and a revised statement shows the new cost as $44,734 -- a reduction of 62 percent, the Herald previously reported.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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