The Prince William County Sheriff's Department may receive up to five new employees next year to help with courtroom security and delivering summonses, law enforcement authorities said last week.
A three-member panel of visiting Circuit Court judges has ordered the state Compensation Board, which funds the Sheriff's Department, to ask the state legislature to approve three new civil process servers for Prince William in response to a lawsuit filed by Sheriff Wilson Garrison. Garrison said he filed the suit when the state Compensation Board refused his request for additional workers.
According to Chief Deputy Harvey C. Bland of the Sheriff's Department, Garrison had requested 14 additional people (the formal request asked for six process servers, five security officers, and three office workers) in March 1989 as part of his annual budget proposal for the 1990-91 fiscal year. The Compensation Board, the state agency responsible for funding the Sheriff's Department, denied the appropriation in June, saying there was no money available, Bland said.
"They denied everything," Bland said. "They said there was no money available because none had been authorized by the legislature. They said there was no money available for additional Sheriff's Department employees anywhere in the whole state of Virginia."
Bruce Haynes, executive secretary of the state Compensation Board, said the court panel ordered his office to request funding for only three additional process servers. The Compensation Board will make the request in January to the General Assembly, which makes the final decision.
"The court order tells us only to request funding from the General Assembly and we will do so," Haynes said, but he is unsure whether the appropriation will be made. In 1989, the Compensation Board asked for 81 new court security and process serving personnel for sheriff's departments around the state; none of the positions was approved, Haynes said.
In addition, two court security officers will be requested for a new Circuit Court judge recently appointed, but that is a separate request from the court order, Haynes said.
Compensation officials said the General Assembly regulates funding and the number of positions each department is allowed. There have been no complaints that departments are too short-staffed to do the job adequately, Haynes said.
"This is budgeting in tight times, and it's a function of sharing the grief," Haynes said. "Everybody is short."
Garrison filed the lawsuit in conjunction with the County Attorney's Office. Sheriff's Department officials said the new workers are needed because the department's workload has increased significantly since the last major appropriation for employees in 1984. The Sheriff's Department is responsible for courtroom security at the Prince William County Judicial Center, transportation of inmates and county mental patients, delivery of warrants and summonses, and extradition of fugitives, Bland said.
The department also tracks probation violators since it took over that duty from the Prince William County police in 1985. The number of probation violators increased from three that year to more than 440 this year. The department earlier this year instituted a wanted poster program for probation violators to free sheriff's deputies from "beating the bushes" for violators, officials said.
The Sheriff's Department staff includes 21 courtroom security officers, 11 process servers, four transportation officers, seven administrative staff members, five staff members and four courthouse security officers, Bland said. The department operates on an annual budget of $2 million.
Garrison was not available for comment. But Bland, who is second in command at the department, said additional employees are needed because the office's responsibilities have increased significantly in recent years as the county's population has grown. The last new allocation of employees occurred in 1984, when a part-time process server was hired full time, Bland said.
Meanwhile, there has been a 78 percent increase in the number of civil summonses and three additional judges have been added, requiring more court security, Bland said.