The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 15, 2012

Our View: Clean the slate

The Joplin Globe

— Setting up a charitable account using a county tax number is not the right way to do business. That’s why the Jasper County Commission was correct to quickly shut down an account containing just over $28,000 that was being used for charitable projects of the sheriff’s department.

We are not accusing anyone of misappropriating money here. There is, however, a correct way to set up a not-for-profit fund that is regularly audited.

The largest portion of the money, $23,347, is used for the “shop with a deputy” Christmas program. Another $3,171 is used for an employee’s Christmas party, and $1,780 was generated by souvenir coins as part of a program for breast cancer awareness.

The sheriff’s fund actually came to light when Sheriff Archie Dunn sent a check from the fund to the county to reimburse it for the fundraiser coins.

In our view, any time a special fund is created and used as part of a government entity — especially if the government entity had no knowledge it existed — it leaves the door open for problems.

Bill Fleischaker, an attorney for Dunn, has suggested the commissioners turn the money over to a newly created not-for-profit called the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department Employees Benevolent Fund.

That’s one idea.

We would suggest the money designated for the “shop with a deputy program” be used in its entirety this year for that purpose. While the fund may have been set up incorrectly, children shouldn’t be penalized.

If records are available to trace the rest of the money, then it should be also used for its intended purpose this year, before Dunn’s term is over.

It should be up to the sheriff elected in November to decide how to proceed with establishing a not-for-profit fund for the department.

And it should be done correctly.