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Pasco Clerk of Court files lawsuit against County Commission over funding dispute

Posted at 4:11 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-13 12:34:36-05

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Nikki Alvarez-Sowles said she didn't want it to come to this, but Friday her office filed suit against the Pasco County Commission.

“I don’t want to sue the commissioners. I respect every single one of them. I don’t want to throw our county into a lawsuit. I feel that I have done everything I can to avoid a lawsuit," said Alvarez-Sowles.

Alvarez-Sowles, Pasco’s Clerk of the Court, said she wants the county to pay its legal share of operating the West Pasco Judicial Center and the court’s computer systems.

Something she said they haven’t been doing for years. Those additional costs add nearly $9 million to the budget.

At this week’s board meeting, commissioner Mike Moore questioned why the Clerk’s office never asked for such a big increase in past years.

“It wasn’t a necessity for your budget in years prior, then the budget was fine," Moore asked.

“I’ll tell you our budget has not been fine," Alvarez-Sowles answered.

The Clerk said the budget challenges exist because they have two full operational courthouses to fund, one on each side of the county.

Throw in Pasco’s huge growth and a revenue loss during COVID-19, and it’s why Alvarez-Sowles said they are in this position.

“Florida law requires the county to fund the clerk’s office. The county is not accepting fiscal responsibility," she said.

Alvarez-Sowles said they’ve had to ask other clerks around the state to help cover funding deficits in past years, but that’s “asking your neighbors to pay the bills.”

Pasco County officials did not want to comment any further on the dispute because of the lawsuit.