County judge calls for state audit after payroll shortage

Jefferson County Judge Dutch King has asked for a state audit after figures showed that the adult jail and juvenile detention center have exceeded their 2013 appropriation for salaries and benefits.

“We pray that these numbers are wrong but if they’re right, we’re going to find out what happened,”Dr. Herman Ginger, chairman of the Quorum Court Finance Committee, said Wednesday after a meeting with King, Justice of the Peace Sissy Granderson, County Treasurer Elizabeth Rinchuso and Daniel Marks, the administrative assistant to King.

“These numbers are unconstitutional and the judge had to do two emergency court orders today so that the employees would get paid before Christmas,” Ginger said. “We are going to get to the bottom of this.”

County employees are scheduled to be paid Friday. Direct deposits had to be made to the respective banks Wednesday.

According to figures compiled by the County Clerk’s Office on Wednesday, the adult jail was $213,044.82 in the red for salaries and benefits, while the juvenile detention center was in the red $233,318.56.

The problems were discovered Wednesday when the sheriff’s office submitted check requests for employees to the clerk’s office, which contacted King and Rinchuso because the money to cover those checks was not in the respective accounts.

“The sheriff’s office should have known they were over budget and the clerk’s office should have known not to write the checks,” Ginger said. “They have spent more money than the quorum court appropriated.”

To cover those checks, King authorized the transfer of $71,658.17 from the public safety sales tax fund to the adult jail fund and $31,681.44 from the county general fund to the adult jail fund.

That money came from funds the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the state paid to house prisoners and the Social Security Incentive Program, and had been deposited into County General based on an attorney general’s opinion.

Figures compiled by Rinchuso showed that through November, the adult jail had spent more than $3.574 million, the juvenile center over $1.655 million, the sheriff’s office almost $2.46 million, and just over $1.764 million for construction of the new sheriff’s office building — a total of just over $10 million for all of the entities combined.

The total 2013 county budget, including money for the sheriff’s office, was just over $9 million.

Also according to figures compiled by Rinchuso, the adult jail had collected $881,426.57 in revenue that went to county general through the end of November, the juvenile center had collected $674,119.24 in revenue and the sheriff’s office $335,609.91 in revenue.

The two emergency court orders will cover payroll for this week, but the county still has one more payday scheduled near the end of the month.

“We’re in a big hole and I pray those numbers are wrong,” King said. “We’re going to do something to see that our employees are paid but right now, I don’t know what that will be.”