In a marked escalation of a long-running budget dispute, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher on Friday called the county manager "truly shameful" for refusing to give Fletcher the money he wants to fight civil unrest.
His broadside was answered a few hours later by the county, which said the sheriff controls a $62 million budget and "it appears Sheriff Fletcher is having difficulty understanding how to manage it."
The public sniping comes as both sides meet in private mediation sessions to resolve a lawsuit that could end up in court this summer. Fletcher filed the suit in December after the board cut more than $1 million from his 2021 budget in a COVID-related austerity move that saw sweeping cuts across the entire county budget.
This is at least the third time Fletcher has made an issue of civil unrest funding.
"The County Manager's efforts to defund law enforcement are truly shameful," Fletcher said in a news release. "The County Manager requests that we help ensure safety in Ramsey County and then he refuses to pay for the service."
Fletcher did not return a request for comment.
In a request for County Board action, the Sheriff's Office said it has racked up a $750,000 tab in increased personnel costs this year in preparations for civil unrest. According to the request, the presidential inauguration required a "mobilization of public safety resources," and additional mobilizations took place during the Derek Chauvin trial and after the shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.
"Services provided included security details at various county locations as well as security for government officials (e.g., judges and others) who have received threats," the request said.
The request didn't provide specific locations for the security details, so it's not clear whether they took place in Ramsey County or elsewhere as assistance to other counties. The city of St. Paul has not seen any significant episodes of civil unrest so far this year, according to St. Paul Police Department spokesman Steve Linders.
The county said it reimbursed Fletcher on Oct. 27 for nearly $500,000 in contingency costs related to civil unrest.
The county also allocated $2.2 million in federal CARES Act funding for pandemic response costs. The county's statement clarified that while County Manager Ryan O'Connor proposes budgets, it's the Ramsey County Board that ultimately approves them.
"The board stands behind the approved budget and the process used to manage it in order to meet both annual and short-term needs," the statement said.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329