By WCCO-TV Staff

This article was originally published on April 24, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher is accusing the county manager of working to “defund law enforcement,” saying he refused this week to support paying the department for increased personnel costs in response to possible civil unrest this year.

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In a statement issued Friday, Fletcher, the head of the state’s second-largest sheriff’s department, said that County Manager Ryan O’Connor’s actions this week are his latest efforts to defund law enforcement, which the sheriff described as “truly shameful.”

“The county manager requests that we help ensure safety in Ramsey County and then he refuses to pay for the service,” Fletcher said. “Protecting citizens, protesters, individual rights, property, and government services are complex tasks requiring an adequate complement of trained law enforcement officers. These efforts have a cost associated with them.”

During a court-ordered mediation session on Thursday, O’Connor refused to support any increase in personnel costs associated with responding to events this year, the sheriff’s office said. In response, Fletcher sent a formal request to the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners, seeking reimbursement for an additional $750,000.

According to that formal request, the funds would pay for heightened security related to threats against government buildings following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S Capitol and possible unrest in connection to the Derek Chauvin trial and the police shooting of Daunte Wright.

Last year, after Fletcher proposed that $550,000 be added to his office’s budget following the unrest in the Twin Cities and subsequent rise in violence crime. According to the sheriff, O’Connor denied the request and instead recommended that the office’s budget be cut by $1,175,000, which the county board adopted.

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Fletcher says he’s submitted other requests for reimbursement, and no action has been taken. In his statement Friday, the sheriff said he hopes that his formal request, which will be addressed at the May 18 County Board meeting, will bring a “full public discussion,” adding: “citizens have a right to know who is behind the effort to defund law enforcement in Ramsey County.”

On Friday afternoon, a county spokesperson gave WCCO the following statement:

Following Ramsey County’s annual budget process, the County Board reimbursed the Sheriff’s Office for nearly $500,000 in contingency costs related to civil unrest on October 27, 2020. The county has also allocated $2.2 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief Economic Security (CARES) funding to the Sheriff’s Office as part of the pandemic response. Since then, the Sheriff’s Administrative team and the county’s Finance staff have continued working together to identify 2021 contingency funding related to civil unrest and COVID-19 using the same process that all county departments follow.

The Sheriff’s Office controls an annual budget of $62 million. It appears Sheriff Fletcher is having difficulty understanding how to manage it. County administration remains committed to continue supporting the Sheriff’s Office in managing any short-term budgetary challenges they are facing. All areas of the county organization are expected to professionally manage resources effectively, efficiently and nimbly on behalf of Ramsey County taxpayers.

The County Manager proposes a budget for the consideration of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. The board is responsible for approving it, as well as overseeing a transparent process that provides consistent, responsive and accountable management to meet the broad needs of the community. The board stands behind the approved budget and the process used to manage it in order to meet both annual and short-term needs in all areas of county operations.

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Sheriff Fletcher has very publicly sued the Board of Commissioners related to his office’s statutorily defined base operating budget. The court-ordered mediation session that Sheriff Fletcher disclosed earlier today is connected to that lawsuit and not COVID-19 or civil unrest response funding. Since the details of the mediation are confidential, we are not able to comment further on statements made by either party as part of those negotiations.