The ordinance, which would have appropriated $180,200 out of the juvenile probation fees fund to finance the program, passed the County Council last week by a vote of 9-0.
"I applaud the program, and I believe the program has merit," Kovach said before the vote. "But just because a program has merit doesn’t mean it should have the ability to proceed if it doesn’t match the framework of the statute."
Citing both case law and common practice, Kovach said it was his understanding that juvenile probation fees could not be used to finance the proposed mentoring program.
"Information I’ve been privy to on the Internet indicates that there is no other county in Indiana that uses probation fees for anything other than (probation) salaries," he added.
The Board of Commissioners and JJC have been debating the proper use of juvenile probation fees since 2009, when Probate Judge Peter J. Nemeth took the county to court over the issue.
Indiana code dictates that such fees may only be used to supplement probation services and salaries, and not to replace other funding or probation services.
Responding to Kovach, Charles Whetstone, director of probation at the JJC, questioned his sources.
"I’m not sure where on the Internet you got your information," he said, "but I personally called several counties ... and all the counties I called that were local counties all used probation user fees for whatever they needed."
Asked by Kovach to name those counties, Whetstone responded: Allen, Lake, Elkhart, Marshall and Kosciusko.
"Well, we’re under a time constraint, so I can’t check those," Kovach said after taking a moment to consider the information. "And it wouldn’t change my vote," he added. "But I appreciate the information."
For his part, Kostielney said he believed the proposed mentoring program represented an appropriate use of juvenile probation fees "because I think most of kids who use those funds will end up on probation."
The ordinance now returns to the County Council for a veto override vote, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage.
Staff writer Erin Blasko: