The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 31, 2012

Jasper County Commission removes 'county' label from disputed sheriff’s account

By Susan Redden

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A sheriff’s fund that has been the center of a recent controversy between the Jasper County Commission and Sheriff Archie Dunn is no longer on the county books.

The fund can no longer use the name Jasper County or the county’s tax number, based on a commission vote Tuesday.

The action came after Norman Rouse, assistant prosecutor and attorney for the commission, reviewed receipts and expenditures from the fund during the commission’s meeting.

Rouse had questioned the fund after Dunn reimbursed the county for the purchase of commemorative coins that were used to raise money for a local breast cancer support group. A bill of just over $3,000 was paid by the county for the coins, which were promoted on the website for Dunn’s re-election campaign.

Commissioners and Rouse questioned the county bill, saying county resources could not be used for the sheriff’s re-election campaign. Dunn said the bill was submitted by mistake, and his attorney sent the county a check for reimbursement. But the county has refused to accept that check from a fund that is used to, among other things, finance a program in which deputies take low-income youngsters shopping at Christmastime.

Even though money for the fund comes from private donations, it is named a county fund and uses the county’s tax identification number, Rouse said.

“It can’t be a county fund because the county can’t write a check on it and it’s not overseen by the county,” he said.

He said Bill Fleischaker, attorney for Dunn, agreed with him that the fund should not be a county account. He said Fleischaker has said a separate charitable fund will be created.

Rouse said it appeared that there was separate accounting for some activities in the disputed fund, “but it’s all in the same account, and there’s not much clarity. It’s just not an appropriate county account.”

Records submitted at Rouse’s request and released after the meeting show that money in the “shop with a deputy” account went for that purpose and also for food baskets for low-income families. Another portion of the fund, accounted for separately, went for activities such as the department’s Christmas party, funeral flowers and help for some department members affected by the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Money for the shopping program was donated by private individuals and businesses. Money that went to the Christmas party and flowers came from department employees, profits from vending machines, and businesses and individuals.

Rouse said discussions about the fund took place when he and Fleischaker were meeting for depositions of county officials in connection with a lawsuit filed by the sheriff against the commissioners, county Auditor Richard Webster and others. Dunn’s lawsuit, among other things, challenges the handling of funds generated by the law enforcement sales tax. The suit says decisions made by the commission violate pledges to the voters when the tax was approved. Disputes involving the cost of housing county inmates in other jails also are the subject of a lawsuit. Commissioners in Henry County, where the largest bill for outside housing was racked up, are suing Dunn and Jasper County for payment.

Citing the purchase of the commemorative coins and other issues, the commissioners, Rouse and Dean Dankelson, county prosecutor, have asked the Missouri attorney general’s office to look into whether Dunn has used the resources of his office to further his re-election campaign.

Other business

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the commission heard a report from the executive director of the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition and approved a series of midyear amendments to the county budget.