The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 10, 2012

Jasper County Commission to seek meeting with Sheriff Archie Dunn

Handling of sheriff's budget continues to be contested topic

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Jasper County Commission will seek a meeting with Sheriff Archie Dunn to discuss how to pay more than $120,000 in bills the sheriff’s Law Enforcement Sales Tax account currently does not have the money to cover.

Commissioners raised the issue at their regular meeting on Tuesday. Richard Webster, county auditor, said less than $75 remains in the account and his office has received bills of $121,528. He said the sheriff later this month will receive $261,322 in LEST funds allocated by the commission, “but there’s also going to be recurring expenses that need to be paid.”

A similar issue occurred two months ago and the commission advanced LEST funds to cover the gap, subtracting them from future allocations. The office is to receive just over $3.1 million in LEST funds this year, allocated in equal monthly installments.

Webster said he sent Dunn an e-mail about the issue a week ago. He said funds allocated should be enough to cover expenses, “but it’s a cash flow problem.”

“I don’t want to pick and choose what gets paid, and I don’t want to be accused of micro-managing the sheriff’s budget,” he said.

The sheriff was unavailable Tuesday. Bill Fleischaker, attorney for Dunn, said the auditor “certainly is micromanaging the sheriff’s budget”.

“He’s cut up the entire year’s budget into 12 equal segments that he hands out once a month,” he said. “Expenses don’t come in that way.”

He said the earlier “remedy” subtracted  money from this month’s funds, making the problem worse.

“There is a surplus there, but they refuse to use that. It’s never been done that way, but this is an election year,” Fleischaker said.

Webster said the practice of handing the LEST money out in monthly increments started in 2011 and was the decision of the County Commission. He said other departments are not under a similar funding structure “because they don’t have money coming from several different resources.”

“It seemed like the logical way to do it; some months the tax will produce more and some less,” he said. “He’s guaranteed the $3.1 million.”

Any appropriations from the fund above that amount would be up to the commission, the auditor said. He agreed there is a budgeted reserve in the fund, including some money that’s being held back for repairs to the county jail.

The commission 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 for his re-election campaign. The office is, officially, looking into the allegations, Nanci Gonder, spokesman for Attorney General Chris Koster.

She said they became involved after David Dally, presiding circuit judge, signed an order from the prosecutor’s office naming the state office as special prosecutor.

“This just formalizes the process,” Gonder aid.

Without the order, the state would not have authority in the case, said Norman Rouse, county counselor to the commission.

In a letter to Koster’s office, Dankelson asked the state to investigate whether  county funds are being used for Dunn’s re-election campaign, citing allegation that a county deputy worked on Dunn’s campaign website on county time, that the sheriff had county vehicles positioned near his campaign tent at a recent event, and that he distributed T-shirts to schoolchildren graduating from an anti-drug program that had a “Re-Elect Archie Dunn for Sheriff” logo on the back. Some of the allegations were made by supporters of Dunn’s opponents in the August primary election.

One of the allegations focused on coins the sheriff’s campaign distributed  to promote breast cancer awareness and raise money for a local breast cancer program. The cost of the coins — $3,303 — was mistakenly turned in to the county for payment, according to Dunn.

Rouse rejected a check sent as reimbursement, because it came from the Jasper County Sheriff Chaplain’s Benevolent Account. Rouse said he has asked the Fleischaker to provide more information on the fund. Though private donations provide revenues for the fund, Rouse said it is a county fund because receipts and expenditures are reported to the county and a check was signed by a county employee.

Fleischaker said the bill was mistakenly submitted, and that the sheriff’s campaign “was just raising money for a charity.” But he said he is gathering the information requested by Rouse.

Lawsuit

 Sheriff Archie Dunn is suing the auditor and commissioners over a variety of issues, including expenditures of LEST funds.

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