County council seeks to take control of funds from sheriff

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A change in how the county accepts funds from the Indiana Department of Correction could be in the works at the request of the Putnam County Council.

For housing state DOC inmates at the Putnam County Jail, the county receives $35 per day per inmate to cover expenses. Of that amount, the jail receives $20 per inmate and the county's general fund gets $15. The county depends on that money to support a portion of its annual spending, while the sheriff's department uses the money to cover its operating expenses.

But, that money now goes directly to the Putnam County Jail, which sends it to the county auditor's office with directions on where to distribute the money.

County council members on Tuesday, however, decided that should change.

"Personally, I think it would be a good idea if it came to the county general fund, and then be distributed back from there," Don Walton told his fellow council members. "That's just my thinking."

Council members Mitch Proctor, Jay Fogle, Larry Parker, Roger Deck and Darrel Thomas agreed.

Auditor Stephanie Campbell said she has looked up past resolutions approved by the county council, and attorney Elizabeth South is reviewing them.

Both Campbell and South said they will contact the State Board of Accounts for directions on how the funds should be handled, and they will have a proposal in February on changing the local process. They noted they want to make sure any change does not create an undue burden on the auditor's office.

The question of the funding comes in the midst of turmoil in the Putnam County Sheriff's Department after a state audit revealed mishandling of funds.

Council member Thomas asked if the council has any liability in that case because the some of the appropriations approved by the council come from the commissary fund, which is in question.

But the council is not liable for the commissary fund, Campbell said, and in fact, has no control over that fund.

"At one time we tried to take over the commissary fund but were told we couldn't," council president Proctor noted.

He added emphasis that receipts should be necessary for all reimbursements -- which led to some of the sheriff's department in trouble with state auditors. The audit flagged expenses such as bracelets, meals, travel and hotel expenses that did not have proper documentation.

"We do require receipts," auditor Campbell said of her office. She noted that many of the things in question, that were paid for out of the commissary fund, had originally been presented to be paid out of the general fund. But because no receipts were also submitted, those claims were denied. Those claims were then paid out of the commissary fund.

"We've made several departments upset because we have not allowed it," Campbell said of claims that do not have accompanying receipts. Council member Fogle asked if the county needs a policy on travel reimbursement.

The county commissioners have established a policy, Campbell said, and they are in the process of reviewing other policies, as well, including use of county credit cards.

Campbell explained that many county departments do have credit cards since they are needed to make reservations for conferences. But a receipt is required before those claims are paid.

Meanwhile, the council learned that a hold-up continues in the state's approval of 2008 budgets for the county, and the council wanted to know why.

"I'm on hold until the assessor's office gives me assessed valued," Auditor Campbell said.

The county's real estate department, which is a part of the assessor's office, is working on that information.

"Is that the department that's holding everything up right now," council member Walton asked.

"Yes," Campbell replied.

The state is taking a look at changing the budget proess, she said, because few counties have their assessed values figured in time for the annual budget process in the fall. Council president Proctor requested that a written explanation of the delay be presented to the council by the auditor or real estate department

In other business, the council:

* Voted to keep the same officers as last year. Proctor will remain as president, with Thomas as vice president.

* Approved three previously discussed salary ordinances. The reassessment department is changing salary to fit the duties. In the auditor's office, salary was changed according to seniority. And in the Health Department, a salary adjustment was made. No additional monies were required by any of the change.

* Asked that the treasurer's office reinstate tax sales on delinquent properties. The county has not had a tax sale since 2005. By law, the county is required to have one tax sale each year. In the past, the county has had a sale in September, followed by a second sale in January or February for those properties that did not sell in the first sale.

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  • Well --- it looks like the County Council is trying to control the funds coming into the sheriff's office and have not checked on the county treasurer to see whether the law is being enforced there. I wonder what other things have been going on in the local government that are not "according to the law". Maybe we should get that "intern" back at the Banner-Graphic and turn him loose again to dig up some more "dirt" in local government.

    -- Posted by not gullible on Wed, Jan 16, 2008, at 8:04 AM
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