Clay County Detention Center

The Western District Court of Appeals upholds the circuit court’s finding Thursday, Dec. 5, siding with Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo in his lawsuit against the county. The sheriff sued the County Commission for underfunding his office for inmate health care and food at the Clay County Detention Center, located in downtown Liberty.

CLAY COUNTY — For the second time in less than four months, a court found in favor of Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo in his lawsuit against the County Commission. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals filed its opinion Thursday, Dec. 5.

“I am obviously gratified and relieved by the Court of Appeals ruling. I hope from this point on we can move forward so that I can properly care for the inmates in our Clay County Detention Center," said Vescovo after learning of the court's finding.

In addition to upholding the lower court’s decision in favor of the sheriff, the appeals court offered a negative review of the county’s actions to underfund the sheriff’s office in 2019.

If funding isn’t provided by the county for his office and vendor bills, Vescovo said inmates who do not pose an imminent public safety threat may have to be released, while others, such as those charged in homicide cases, may have to be moved to other jails, which would also come as an additional cost to the county.

“While Portwood was signing vendor contracts, the county was also crafting an appropriations ordinance which arranged the sheriff’s budget into various line items that made it impossible for him to move funds around to satisfy contractual obligations,” states the opinion. “Text messages introduced in evidence revealed that Portwood discussed the creation of these line items with an unknown party, though in some messages she referred to the other party as ‘Commissioner.’ At the same time, the county refused to place the matter of the sheriff’s budget shortfall before the commission despite the law’s clear requirements to do so.”

While the appeals court did not grant an award of legal fees to be paid by the county to the sheriff, the court did state the lower circuit court does have the authority to award those fees.

CLAY COUNTY — After Clay County’s contracted auditing firm said it will not complete its work due to the ongoing state audit, the county is scrambling to find a new auditing firm in hopes of not losing upwards of millions of dollars in grant funding.

CLAY COUNTY — A majority of the Clay County Commission adjourned a special session without action to restore the Clay County Sheriff’s Office budget Monday, Sept. 9, after a judge found in favor of Sheriff Paul Vescovo in his lawsuit against the county.

CLAY COUNTY — Sheriff Paul Vescovo is suing Clay County and its three county commissioners following “drastic” cuts made to his department’s operating budget.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.