Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2001
Source: Journal Gazette (IN)
Copyright: 2001 Journal Gazette
Author: Carey Checca


The Allen County Council president and a Superior Court judge got into a 
shouting match Wednesday when the council almost denied a $90,000 funding 
request next year for the drug court.

Council President Mike Cunegin said he would like the county to fund the 
program, but it doesn't have the money.

That prompted Allen Superior Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger to raise his voice.

"You have been a supporter of this program for many years and now you're 
getting off the bus," Scheibenberger told Cunegin.

"I'm not getting off the bus," Cunegin yelled back.

Councilman Bill Schnizer calmly suggested the council should not cut the 
drug court so soon in the budget process. The council should look to ax 
other programs first, he said.

"Have the balls to do that this morning," Scheibenberger replied.

Councilwoman Sandra Houlihan then gasped and marched out of the budget hearing.

Council members delayed a decision on whether to fund the drug court. They 
gave Scheibenberger until the Sept. 17 to find other ways to fund the program.

Council members began their heated discussion by repeating their vow not to 
use county general fund money - which is backed by property taxes - to 
continue programs started with grants.

Grants for the drug court ran out last year.

"I deal with rules everyday," Scheibenberger said. "There are exceptions to 
every rule."

The drug court allows non-violent defendants charged with possessing drugs 
to have their criminal charges dismissed in exchange for successfully 
addressing their drug problems and taking court-ordered steps to improve 
their lives.

The court is effective, Scheibenberger said. Only 5 percent of the 
program's participants don't complete it.

The drug court's recent requests for grants have been denied because 
private foundations believe tax dollars should fund government programs, 
Scheibenberger said.

A golf outing Wednesday at Deer Track Golf Course was expected to raise 
$15,000 for the drug court, said John S. Nimmo, a criminal defense attorney 
and member of the Stop Addiction Foundation, the non- profit group that 
organized the fund-raiser.

After Wednesday's council meeting, Houlihan said the drug court "is kind of 
like the DARE program - it's a warm fuzzy. I'm not saying whether the 
program is good, better or indifferent." DARE, short for Drug Abuse 
Resistance Education, is conducted by police officers in public schools. 
The program is designed to teach kids about the dangers of drugs, but 
critics have questioned its effectiveness. The Fort Wayne Police Department 
ended the program this year.

Superior Judge Fran Gull said she's hopeful money can be found for the drug 
court in Superior Court's budget or through other programs.

Gull said it's possible that council members are miffed at the Superior 
Court judges for mandating the County Council and commissioners in April to 
build a $28.5 million juvenile detention center. The detention center will 
replace the aging Wood Youth Center, 2929 N. Wells St.

When Cunegin said during Wednesday's heated debate that the council doesn't 
have money to fund the drug court, Scheibenberger replied the council has 
yet to touch a $4.7 million refund of county option income tax from the state.

Cunegin said the council can't use that money because it is tied up in the 
Superior Court mandate.

"We can change that this morning," Scheibenberger said and nodded at the 
other Superior Court judges in the audience.

Cunegin told Scheibenberger: "Come back."
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