County sets Bryant rainy day fund
Eagle County is setting aside some extra money next year to deal with possible extra expenses associated with NBA star Kobe Bryant’s criminal case.
The county’s $76 million preliminary budget for 2004 includes $135,000 to deal with Bryant’s case. Bryant is accused of raping an Eagle woman at the Lodge at Cordillera in June.
“We’re putting that money aside just in case,” said County Administrator Jack Ingstad. “I want to have a reserve for the District Attorney’s Office. Their budget is flat for 2004. We’re recommending it, but the board (of county commissioners) needs to decide.”
In late July, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert requested more money to deal with the case. The county commissioners then set aside $105,000 for the case. With part of that money, Hurlbert hired Krista Flannigan, a public relations specialist, to respond to hundreds of media inquiries that the District Attorney’s Office was fielding daily.
“We’re making funds available, but the Board of County Commissioners is making clear that it has to be for a legitimate expense and they want to see the bills,” Ingstad said. “We’re asking everybody in the county to stay within their budgets, but we understand that this is a particular situation.”
Commissioner Tom Stone said it would be responsible of the Board of County Commissioners to set the money aside.
“However, it should still be contingent upon partial releases as the case moves forward,” he said.
Hurlbert said he is asking for a 5 percent increase in his budget for next year.
“That doesn’t include Kobe Bryant,” he said. “I’m happy they’re considering setting money aside for the case. I don’t see hiring more staff, but we’re still evaluating how much money we’ll need.”
Hurlbert said he’s meeting with the commissioners next week to discuss his budget and possible expenses related to the Kobe Bryant case.
The total budget for the District Attorney’s Office for 2004 is $1.8 million, Ingstad said. Eagle County’s share of that is $948,723.
“Our share is down $3,000 from last year,” Ingstad said. Hurlbert’s budget request is based on a formula applied across the four-county 5th Judicial District, which comprises Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties.
The formula examines population, assessed valuation, net taxable sales and the number of cases the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes in each county. Using that formula, each county’s share is calculated.
Since the case started in July, in addition to the extra money for the District Attorney’s Office, the county spent $10,000 to set up a media tent for Bryant’s first court appearance in August.
The county now is planning to lease from the Gallegos Corp. a lot in front of the Eagle County Justice Center from Sept. 29 through Nov. 30 for $10,000. Bryant’s next hearing is Oct. 9.
“So far, we’ve rented 27 spots for the satellite trucks at $555 each,” said Becky Gadell, assistant county administrator. Extra money will apparently be used to cover other expenses.
“The fact that it takes a little more money to bring justice to a celebrity situation doesn’t mean you don’t have to bring justice,” said county Commissioner Michael Gallagher.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at
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