Clay County Detention Center

The Western District Court of Appeals upholds the circuit court’s finding Thursday, Dec. 5, siding with Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo in his lawsuit against the county. The sheriff sued the County Commission for underfunding his office for inmate health care and food at the Clay County Detention Center, located in downtown Liberty.

CLAY COUNTY — For the second time in less than four months, a court found in favor of Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo in his lawsuit against the County Commission. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals filed its opinion Thursday, Dec. 5.

“I am obviously gratified and relieved by the Court of Appeals ruling. I hope from this point on we can move forward so that I can properly care for the inmates in our Clay County Detention Center," said Vescovo after learning of the court's finding.

In addition to upholding the lower court’s decision in favor of the sheriff, the appeals court offered a negative review of the county’s actions to underfund the sheriff’s office in 2019.

“While Portwood was signing vendor contracts, the county was also crafting an appropriations ordinance which arranged the sheriff’s budget into various line items that made it impossible for him to move funds around to satisfy contractual obligations,” states the opinion. “Text messages introduced in evidence revealed that Portwood discussed the creation of these line items with an unknown party, though in some messages she referred to the other party as ‘Commissioner.’ At the same time, the county refused to place the matter of the sheriff’s budget shortfall before the commission despite the law’s clear requirements to do so.”

While the appeals court did not grant an award of legal fees to be paid by the county to the sheriff, the court did state the lower circuit court does have the authority to award those fees.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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