Friday, September 14, 2012

Commissary Payments to Former Sheriffs and Sheriff's Law Firm Violate Indiana Law

It is good that the payments to former Marion County Sheriffs Frank Anderson and Jack Cottey are getting scrutiny.

Former Marion County
Sheriff Frank Anderson
Unfortunately, the media coverage is missing a major point.  While their employment is debatable, what is not debatable is that payments to the former Sheriffs and the Sheriff's law firm violates Indiana law.

Sheriffs Anderson and Cottey and the law firm Frost Brown Todd, who employs the Sheriff Jon Layton and former Sheriff Anderson's attorney Kevin Murray, have their salaries and fees paid out of the Marion County Jail Commissary Fund.  However, Indiana law only allows certain expenditures to be made out of the Commissary fund and payments to the former sheriffs and law firm fees are not on the list.  Allowable commissary expenses are outlined in IC 36-11-10-1(d):
(d) The sheriff, or the sheriff's designee, at the sheriff's or the sheriff's designee's discretion and without appropriation by the county fiscal body, may disburse money from the fund for: 
Kevin Murray, Partner
with Frost Brown Todd

(1) merchandise for resale to inmates through the commissary;
(2) expenses of operating the commissary, including, but not limited to, facilities and personnel;
(3) special training in law enforcement for employees of the sheriff's department;
(4) equipment installed in the county jail;
(5) equipment, including vehicles and computers, computer software, communication devices, office machinery and furnishings, cameras and photographic equipment, animals, animal training, holding and feeding equipment and supplies, or attire used by an employee of the sheriff's department in the course of the employee's official duties;
(6) an activity provided to maintain order and discipline among the inmates of the county jail;
(7) an activity or program of the sheriff's department intended to reduce or prevent occurrences of criminal activity, including the following:
(A) Substance abuse.
(B) Child abuse.
(C) Domestic violence.
(D) Drinking and driving.
(E) Juvenile delinquency;
(8) expenses related to the establishment, operation, or maintenance of the sex and violent offender registry web site under IC 36-2-13-5.5; or
(9) any other purpose that benefits the sheriff's department that is mutually agreed upon by the county fiscal body and the county sheriff.
Money disbursed from the fund under this subsection must be supplemental or in addition to, rather than a replacement for, regular appropriations made to carry out the purposes listed in subdivisions (1) through (8).
Nothing in IC 36-11-10-1(d) allows payments to the former Sheriffs or to the the Sheriff's lawyer or law firm.  Even if by some tortured reading of the statute a justification was found, the payments have to be a supplement to funds already legally appropriated for those purposes.

Unfortunately, Marion County Sheriffs have ignored the restrictions on the use of the commissary fund for years.  While abuses of the fund under Sheriff Anderson have received mainstream media coverage, no action has ever been taken to stop the abuse.   It is time that State officials step in and require our local law enforcement officials and their attorneys to follow the law.

See Ogden on Politics columns:

Thursday, October 22, 2009:  The Jail Commissary Fund, Part I: Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson Violates Indiana Law to Pay Private Law Firm

Monday, October 26, 2009:  The Jail Commissary Fund, Part II: Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson Violates Indiana Law to Pay Accounting and PR Firm Out of Jail Commissary Fund'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009: The Jail Commissary Fund, Part III: Need Money to Buy Plaques or Attend a Fundraiser? Just Dip Into the Jail Commissary Fund

See WRTV reports:

Auditors Questioned Sheriff's Donations Years Ago

Some Question Sheriff's Donations from Jail Funds

Councilor Questions Discretion Of Sheriff's Donations

There have been other media reports about the Sheriff's abuse of the jail commissary fund, but they may no longer be available on the Internet.  I did, however, find a new article about the abuse of the commissary fund in Lake County:

July 16, 2011, Lake commissary cash used for myriad functions for years with little oversight


Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't know, Paul. It looks to me like subsection (9) is pretty much a catch-all for permitted uses.

Unknown said...

A rather upsetting bill was just signed into law in Indiana. While most of it deals with routine details of the regulation of therapeutic hypnosis.

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