Fore Note: I've been in politics for a long time now, some might even say too long but there's one thing I've learned for sure. When anyone or any organization asks government officials for tax payer money and they preface their request by saying, "it's for the children" you better look out.
Everybody knows the best way in the world to shake down government officials for money is just to say it's for the little children. Nobody ever wants to look like they don't love the little children but if you don't just roll over and hand out the money for the little children, you must be a terrible person. And believe me, there's no where that ploy is used more than in the education system but that's for another day.
Below is a story of one of those organizations who wish to get into the citizens pockets. CASA came before the county commission earlier this month with a request for the commission to add yet another tax on all court cases going through the general sessions court. They even went so far as to have special legislation written for their purpose, unrequested and unknown by the commission I might add. I guess they thought the commission would just rubber stamp their request. Fortunately that didn't happen.
But another sure thing with folks like this, they never give up. Based on the story below, looks like they aren't through digging for dollars just yet. Note carefully what they really need the money for.
Loudon Co CASA program could shut down
wbir.com-Loudon County's CASA program, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, has faced funding problems at the national and state level, and now on the local level as well.
Loudon Co. is a part of the 9th Judicial District that also serves Roane and Morgan counties. CASA in Roane and Morgan is not in danger because their counties are supplementing their funding, and they have access to state funds.
While nothing is final yet, CASA's executive director for the 9th District is very concerned about the Loudon Co. program's future.
State legislators passed a law to add funds through a court fee until frozen state funds are available again. But the Loudon Co. Commission rejected adding it to their courts.
CASA is the eyes and ears for judges who are overloaded with child abuse and neglect cases. Three years ago, Loudon Co.'s former juvenile judge saw a need for the program in his courtroom.
"He had several children who he felt would benefit from having an advocate. The CASA program sees some of the hardest cases that come before the judge," said CASA's Executive Director for the 9th District, Sandy Weaver.
Now after three years of advocating for Loudon Co.'s children, leaders say the program could disappear.
"We have funded the Loudon County program through short term grants which are coming to an end in June. And without local support or match we will not have funds to maintain a program coordinator in Loudon County," Weaver said.
That coordinator that could be eliminated is Cindy Lamb, who with the help of trained volunteers, worked with 40 children last year.
"Other services are there. But we strive very hard to have one advocate for one case, two at the most. And to have that advocate on that case for the life of the case," said Lamb. "That can make all the difference in the world in that child's life. Just being able to have that."
The Loudon Co. Commission recently rejected adding a $45 fee for many, but not all court cases where the defendant is guilty. They also asked for a $5 fee for all cases coming through the system.
"To me that was just another tax on the citizens of our county," said County Commissioner Bob Franke.
Franke voted against it. Not because he doesn't support CASA, but because he didn't feel like they presented the appropriate financial paperwork.
The fees would provide around $50,000 a year for the program.
"When you're spending that kind of money, the people's money, I think we need to have an audit of where the money is going," Franke said.
CASA believes they provided adequate financial statements, but say they are eager to provide whatever they need to in order to get the funding.
Commission Franke says the commission will take another look at the funding in the future.