In reviewing the 2 1/2 years of commissary reports, I found other payments for professional fees that would not be authorized under IC 36-8-10-21. First, the The Beck Communications Group, Inc. has been paid a $2,500 monthly commission for "consulting services" out of the commissary fund the entire 2 1/2 years I reviewed. By my calculation, Beck Communications has been paid $82,500.
Beck Communications, which was managed by Democrat activist Lara Beck who has done communication for Mayor Bart Peterson's administration, First Lady Maggie Kernan , and WellPoint. Beck Communications shows up in the Sheriff's 2006 end of the year campaign finance report as being paid more than $55,000 for work done for the Sheriff's campaign.
According to LinkedIn, Beck Communications Services provided:
Public and media relations strategies for clients in public and private sectors, as well as not-for-profit organizations. Also offer political consulting services.Beck Communications is listed as administratively dissolved by the Secretary of State as of last month.Next my attention turns to payments made throughout the 2 1/2 year period to London Witte, a local CPA firm. According to the commissary reports, the Sheriff paid approximately $172,800 to London Witte, which fees are usually listed as being for "consulting." According to London Witte's website, these are the consulting services provided by the company:
The issue is not whether the Beck Communications and London Witte expenditures, and even the legal fees, might have some merit. The issue is whether they are authorized expenditures from the commissary fund under IC 36-8-10-21. Contrary to how Sheriff Anderson has treated the jail commissary fund, it is not a fund that he can simply spend however he wants. None of us, including Sheriff Anderson, is above the law. The Sheriff needs to discontinue spending commissary money in violation of IC 36-8-10-21. If he can't bring himself to comply with Indiana law, he needs to consider resigning.
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Correct me if I am wrong. The commissary fund, money that comes from inmate’s calls, snacks, and personal items is used or is supposed to be used for items for the inmates. If the sheriff is using those funds for illegal purchases does that mean that the items used inside the jail by the inmates is purchased with tax dollars?
Leslie, I'm not sure what you're saying. I'm not saying that they aren't using tax money instead of the commissary to buy stuff for the inmates. Rather I'm saying that the Sheriff is spending commissary funds on things not allowed by law. You are talking a lot of money flowing into the commissary, especially through the telephone contract. By my estimate, we're talking over $3 million per year.
In most places the commissary fund is used to buy items used by the inmates thus saving taxpayers money. The televisions in the day rooms for one example. My question was if the sheriff is using the commissary money for things not allowed for by law does that mean then that when items are purchased for the inmates is it the taxpayer getting stuck with the bill instead of the commissary fund. Here the inmate commissary fund pays for stuff like basketballs, footballs, baseball equipment, and weight lifting equipment so on. Taxpayers do not pay for those items because the money comes from the inmate commissary fund.
Leslie, you're looking at it from the wrong angle. Those thing you mention as far as I know are being purchased out of the commissary money and not from tax money. (I've seen basketball equipment, for example, purchased out of the commissary fund.) That's okay.
The problem is when the commissary money is spent in violation of the law. Much of the commissary money spent has absolutely nothing to do with the inmates. That's the problem I have highlighted. Using the commissary fund allows the Sheriff to bypass the normal budget review. For example, his spending $2,500 a month on a PR consultant probably would raise a red flag with the Council if it went through the regular budget. So he instead pays the consultant out of the Commissary.
I knew you weren't saying that Anderson was using tax money to buy items intended to come from the commissary fund for inmates. I was just thinking out loud. Anderson used a lot of that fund on expenditures that didn't benefit the inmates. In addition I was thinking about the quarter of million dollars the City County Council gave him no questions asked for CCA allegedly for the inmates. I just couldn't get it straight in my mind as to why he would use the inmate fund for legal services when he got all that money from the city, which by the way was taxpayer money. I was also wondering why if that fund generates millions of dollars why the jail keep bleeding inmate relatives when it’s been proven that contact with an inmate’s family is beneficial to rehabilitation. Anderson should be investigated for his misuse of that fund and for robbing the poor.
It looks like the sheriff isn't the only government official in Indiana who incorrectly uses his office and money that doesn't belong to him. I ran across this article, interesting that corruption is running at all levels of Indiana government. The good news is it appears the FBI is on the move, investigating.
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