By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
With each side accusing the other of “playing politics,” the Jasper County commissioners and Sheriff Archie Dunn could not agree Tuesday on the future handling of a fund used for charitable projects of the Sheriff’s Department, including the annual “Shop With a Deputy” program.
The commission, on the advice of Norman Rouse, attorney for the panel, closed out the account containing just over $28,000.
Bill Fleischaker, attorney for Dunn, said the money is donated to the sheriff’s office, and decisions on how it’s spent are made by a committee of department employees. He asked that the money be turned over to a new not-for-profit he had formed so workers could start making plans for Christmas projects. When he and Rouse could not agree on how the fund would be administered, the commission took the request under advisement.
Fleischaker said the money doesn’t belong to the county or to Dunn, and that the commission was “playing politics” by closing the account.
John Bartosh, presiding commissioner, said he believed Dunn’s motive was to ensure that Randee Kaiser did not get access to the money. Kaiser defeated Dunn in the August primary to win the Republican nomination for sheriff; Bartosh was one of Kaiser’s supporters.
Dunn and three department employees were authorized signers on the account, but Rouse said the county had authority to close it out because it used the county’s tax identification number.
The commissioners months ago refused to accept a check from the account to reimburse the county after Dunn submitted a bill, which officials paid, for souvenir coins that were to be used as a fundraiser for breast cancer programs. Dunn said the bill was submitted by mistake, and he sent the county a $3,030 check from the fund at issue. Fleischaker on Tuesday submitted a personal check from Dunn as a replacement. The goal of that check, he said, was to remove the earlier conflict and put deputies back in charge of the larger fund so they could start planning for the holidays.
“I’m asking that the commission endorse the check over to the fund, to be called the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department Employees Benevolent Fund, with a charter that calls for the money to be used for charitable purposes,” Fleischaker said. “They need to start planning for Christmas. The commission has acknowledged it’s not county money.”
Rouse reviewed the account, which he said contains $23,347 for the “Shop With a Deputy” program, $3,171 for the employees’ Christmas party, and $1,780 generated by the breast cancer coins.
He said most of the Christmas party money came from the earnings off vending machines in the Sheriff’s Department and from raffles, and that the “Shop With a Deputy” money came from donations for that purpose. He said donations also have come from suppliers to the sheriff’s office.
Money from the fund has gone to some department employees who were victims of the Joplin tornado, to one deputy who has cancer, for Christmas food baskets, and for flowers for funerals and illnesses.
“But the money primarily goes to ‘Shop With a Deputy,’ and we all still want that to happen,” he said.
Rouse said he had talked with an accountant who didn’t think the fund would meet requirements as a tax-exempt charity. He said the Carl Junction and Webb City police departments work through their local Rotary Clubs for their Christmas charity projects, and that Carthage has a long-standing charity for a Christmas party for underprivileged children. That operation has been overseen by Kaiser, the assistant police chief, for the past several years.
Rouse said he thinks the money should be turned over to an organization that would meet those requirements and suggested that the commission give the sheriff 30 days to provide input on what organization that should be.
Fleischaker said he believes the fund he is crafting will meet tax-exempt requirements.
“Sheriff’s Department employees supervised those funds, and if you take them and give them to someone else, it’s purely playing politics, and he (Rouse) is giving you political advice, not legal advice,” Fleischaker said. “You can make that money available for the employees, and that’s where it ought to go.”
Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner, agreed that “it’s the employees’ money,” but Darieus Adams, Western District associate commissioner, disagreed.
“How do you know that ‘Shop With a Deputy’ money isn’t commingled with other money?” Adams said. “It would be cleaner to have a separate fund for that.”
Bartosh said he also wants donors to be assured that their money goes where they intend.
Dunn said the fund was established in 2005. He said the money is in a single account but divided into three separate funds, and that department employees “can tell you where every dollar comes from and every dollar is spent.”
“It’s in three different spreadsheets, all accounted for separately,” he said.
Dunn said Rouse’s wife used to work for the Sheriff’s Department, and that the two of them had attended department Christmas parties.
“She even won the gun raffle,” Dunn said. “Why are you complaining now?”
Bartosh ended the discussion at that point, saying the question would be taken “under advisement.”
He said that discussion will come at a public meeting of the commission. Rouse said the decision to close the account did not come at a formal meeting of the commission, but the panel had taken the action based on his legal advice.
SHERIFF ARCHIE DUNN in July 2011 filed a lawsuit against the County Commission and others, challenging decisions made by the panel involving, among other things, the law enforcement sales tax board and the expenditure of funds generated by the sales tax. The lawsuit remains pending in Jasper County Circuit Court.