State auditors say CCSO broke budgetary laws

Monday, September 11, 2006

LITTLE ROCK -- The Carroll County Sheriff s Office has been found in violation of state budgetary laws, according to a letter issued Wednesday by Kim Williams, investigative audit manager for the Division of Legislative Audit of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.

Williams stated that during 2005, sales tax funds, designated to operate the county jail and a central dispatch office, totaling $56,950, were used to purchase three vehicles for the sheriff s department. The costs associated with two of the vehicles were miscoded on claims submitted to the county clerk's office, one being coded to other sundry and the other to the budget line item other miscellaneous.

In Williams' letter to County Judge Ulys K. Smith, Sheriff Chuck Medford and County Clerk Shirley Doss, Williams states that the sheriff said he designated the budget line items to be charged. The county clerk processed the two claims, but was unable to locate the original claims to document if they were approved by the county judge or his designated representative.

"If these two vehicles had been properly charged to the budget as Capital Outlay, this expenditure category would have exceeded the budgeted amount by approximately $31,500, which is a violation of budgetary laws," Williams wrote.

Williams also stated that the three vehicles purchased with jail sales tax funds were not documented by the sheriff as to what purpose for which they were to be used. "Therefore, we were unable to determine if the cost of the vehicles, or a portion thereof, was an allowable use of the sales tax funds."

Cost of the rest room in the sheriff's office, added in March, was not properly appropriated as a capital improvement and was charged to the capital outlay budget, Williams states. However, based on the language contained in the sales tax ordinance, the rest room addition is an allowable use of sales tax funds.

Williams recommends that the Quorum Court review applicable budget laws and adopt policies and guidelines to prorate common expenses, and that the sheriff request a 2006 budget amendment to properly classify the rest room addition costs to the capital outlay category; and that expenditures be properly coded to ensure compliance with appropriated amounts.

Further, the auditing committee recommends that the county clerk not process claims for payment which have been miscoded or do not have adequate appropriation.

The committee did not attempt to determine the amount that may be due between the General and Jail Sales Tax Funds, since management has not provided clear guidelines as to the proration of common costs between the Sheriff s Department and the Detention Department.

The review primarily covers the time between Jan. 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006.

The audit was requested unanimously by the quorum court in April after now deceased Justice of the Peace Larry Fry expressed concern about a likely shortfall in anticipated revenue from the state for the housing of prisoners, and asked Sheriff Chuck Medford to come up with a revised budget.

The JPs voted to hold a special meeting on June 30 to fashion and vote on an ordinance to cut $200,000 from the budget, but that meeting never happened because of inaccurate notification to the media, which could have created a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

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