Cost of FLDS raid drowning county

The Daily Times, Texas/June 28, 2008

Schleicher County, home of the Yearning For Zion Ranch, doesn't feel it should be responsible for the enormous costs of April's raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound.

Kerr County agrees.

This week, Kerr County commissioners approved a resolution in support of Schleicher County that asks the state to pick up the tab on the Child Protective Services investigation against the polygamist sect.

"We are asking the state to indemnify our county," said Schleicher County judge Johnny Griffin. "Not one person from my county was involved, other than the sheriff who received the initial call from the CPS hotline."

Now, CPS's costly procedure has been placed on Schleicher County, with a population of less than 2,800, and Griffin says his county has no way of paying for it.

"We started getting these monstrous bills," he said. "People were charging things to the county that weren't approved.

"We have a tax levy of about $2.4 million and these expenses come to the tune of more than $7 million," Griffin said.

Add to that, the costs of court-appointed guardians and attorneys totaling around $7.8 million, according to Griffin. The county is mandated by state law to cover those costs.

"There is no way a county of our size could do it," he said.

And Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley said they shouldn't have to.

"It wasn't their party, it was the state's party," Tinley said. "The state opted for the party and they ought to pay for it.

"Plain, pure and simple."

Griffin said some of the expenses that have added up include bills for porta-potties, a bill for the use of the San Angelo convention center to house the women and children taken from the ranch, at least $22,000 in catering expenses and a bill for buses used to transport residents of the ranch.

"We had $70,000 worth of bills before we knew what the hell was going on," Griffin said. "We don't do business like that."

Earlier this month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reviewed more that 400 pages of state documents and determined the tab associated with the roundup of more than 460 children had topped $14 million.

That figure did not include invoices for overtime, travel and professional services that had yet to be submitted.

"It would be a tremendous burden if something like that were to happen here," Tinley said, explaining Kerr County's support of the measure. "They are rolling in bills in the millions and millions of dollars."

"I think other counties understand the situation we're in and they have all been very supportive," Griffin said.

That support has drummed up some preliminary agreements with the state. Griffin said he has received several letters from officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, that indicate the state will help.

"We have a verbal commitment from the state that any extraordinary expenses will be picked up by the state," Griffin said. "But you better not count on it until it's in your hands."

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