The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 20, 2012

County Commission discusses sheriff’s office overtime, lawsuit

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Jasper County is having to wait for nearly $90,000 in reimbursements for sheriff’s deputies paid for overtime worked in the Joplin tornado, members of the County Commission said Tuesday.

The county can’t get paid until deputies sign the time sheets that have been submitted to the state, a worker in the county auditor’s office told the panel.

There was no one at the meeting from the sheriff’s office to speak about the issue, which was not listed on the commission’s agenda. Most of the commission discussion was devoted to the sheriff’s office because John Bartosh, presiding commissioner, had asked for an update on a lawsuit involving housing costs for county prisoners at other area jails.

Bartosh said no one from the sheriff’s office was notified about the planned discussion, but noted the lawsuit review was listed on the agenda.

“We put it all on our website and he has people up here three times a day. They could look and see what’s on the agenda,” he said, referring to a copy of the agenda posted on a bulletin board outside commission chambers.

Sheriff Archie Dunn and the commission have been at odds for months, primarily because of conflicts concerning the expenditure of proceeds from the Law Enforcement Sales Tax. Dunn is suing the commission and Richard Webster, county auditor, contending, among other things, that the commission had no authority to dismantle a grant board that allocates LEST funds, or to spend money out of the sheriff’s office budget without the request of the sheriff.

The commission, after first refusing, paid overtime costs for deputies in December with the expectation the county’s general fund would get the reimbursement from federal funds, via the state, once the paperwork was processed. But Mary Casteel, with the auditor’s office, said she had been told by state officials that the time sheets submitted were not signed by employees, which must be done before payment can be authorized. She cited a copy of an Oct. 20 e-mail to the sheriff’s office, in which state emergency officials said the time sheets needed to be signed.

Sheriff’s Capt. Kelly Stephens, who oversaw department efforts to compile the time sheets for overtime, said he thought questions on the signatures and other issues had been addressed in a meeting with emergency officials held after the Oct. 20 communication.

“The last FEMA email I got was Dec. 6 and it said everything had been forwarded for processing,” he said.

Stephens said he had heard nothing from the commission or the auditor’s office about the problem cited during the meeting.

“I haven’t heard from anybody; I thought we were all done with this,” he said.

Casteel said she had not contacted the sheriff’s office because she just learned of the problem on Monday.

In other action, Rouse said a lawsuit seeking payment for housing Jasper County inmates has been amended to name the sheriff as a defendant.

The addition to the lawsuit filed a month ago by Henry County adds a second target from which the county is seeking to receive payment for more than $134,000 in bills racked up last year, when some Jasper County inmates were being housed outside the county.

The amended lawsuit cites as a potential revenue source the sheriff’s insurance bond. State law requires bonds for officials to guarantee the lawful performance of their duties.

Bills of more than $176,000 were accumulated after Dunn started moving county inmates to other lockups. The sheriff has argued that the commission, via the general fund, should pay those costs because the commission is responsible for county buildings. The commission has maintained that it has no responsibility in the matter because the expenditure was not budgeted.

Road report

Jim Honey, eastern district associate commissioner, also reviewed the condition of county roads after the heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday.

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