The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 31, 2012

Attorney for County Commission rejects reimbursement check

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A reimbursement check sent on behalf of Sheriff Archie Dunn is being returned because Norman Rouse, attorney for the Jasper County Commission, contends the check was written on a county fund.

The check addresses one of the issues raised by Dean Dankelson, county prosecutor, in his request that the Missouri attorney general’s office look into whether Dunn has used county funds for his re-election campaign.

Dunn’s re-election campaign distributed coins to promote breast cancer awareness and raise money for a local program, but the cost of the coins was turned in to the county for payment. Bill Fleischaker, Dunn’s attorney, said previously that the submission for payment was not intentional but was done mistakenly.

He said the cost — $3,030 — was to be paid by private funds and would be reimbursed to the county. But the check sent to the county by Fleischaker is being returned because Rouse said it was his opinion that the reimbursement check was written on a county fund.

The check came from the Jasper County Sheriff Chaplain’s Benevolent Account, which Fleischaker said is a private fund used for charitable activities by the sheriff’s office, including the Shop With a Deputy program each Christmas.

Fleischaker said Rouse “continues to think of raising money for breast cancer awareness as a campaign plot. And I didn’t realize he could make that decision (on rejecting the check) unilaterally; I thought that was something the County Commission would have to decide.”

The prosecutor, in a letter to the Missouri attorney general’s office, said the sheriff promoted the coins on the “Re-elect Archie Dunn” Facebook page, creating the appearance of a conflict.

“This creates the appearance that Dunn is using coins purchased with government funds for his own individual gain,” Dankelson wrote.

“It’s no different than any other campaign raising money for a charity,” Fleischaker said.

Rouse said the account is a county fund because the money is “clearly donations to the Jasper County sheriff that’s being reported” to the county auditor’s office and treasurer’s office, and the check was signed by a county employee.

“I cannot believe donors thought the funds would be used to further Sheriff Dunn’s political campaign,” he said.

Richard Webster, county auditor, said the fund contains a balance of nearly $27,000 and that the money is secured along with other county funds.

Reports submitted to ensure that county funds are secured come from the office of Jeannie Wells, county treasurer. She said she does not consider the account to be county funds, but funds for which a county official is responsible.

“We secure because it’s a fund that an elected official is responsible for,” she said. “But they’re not taxpayer dollars; they’re donated dollars.”

Fleischaker said the sheriff’s office started sending reports on the fund to the county auditor’s office earlier this year.

“He makes a report on it to make sure he’s not doing anything wrong, and now he’s doing something wrong?” he said. “Employees are involved in the fund and helped design the breast cancer coin. This is bordering on the absurd.”

Dankelson is asking the attorney general’s office to investigate whether county funds are being used for Dunn’s re-election campaign. His letter cited the coins, plus allegations 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.

Lawsuit

SHERIFF ARCHIE DUNN is suing the County Commission, county Auditor Richard Webster and others primarily over conflicts concerning expenditures of funds from the law enforcement sales tax.

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