Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin Uses Diversion Fees to Illegally Subsidize His Pay

One of my pet peeves as an attorney is county prosecutors who feels that, while they can prosecute others for violating the law, when it comes to their own behavior, the law is merely a suggestion.  The most blatant example of this is civil forfeiture laws.  Even though Indiana law explicitly says that prosecutors and law enforcement may only keep in civil forfeiture proceeds to cover costs as to that particular case with the remainder to be paid to the Common School Fund, county prosecutors all over the state ignore the law to pocket 100% of the money, paying nothing to the schools.  The reason for this limit on use of civil forfeiture proceeds is to prevent "policing for profit," decisions made about pursuing individuals in forfeiture lawsuits being more about the property seized than punishing people for provable criminal actions.
Michael Griffin,
Hancock County Prosecutor

According to my research, which is now a few years old,, Hancock County prosecutors historically have been among those not following the law, pocketing all civil forfeiture proceeds and not paying a dime to the Common School fund.

But apparently civil forfeiture is not the only area in which Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin has violated the law.  He has also accepted $16,153 in diversion funds as a supplemental salary over the past several years.  Indiana law does not allow this.

According to IC 33-37-8-6, diversion funds may only be used according to the guidelines set by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney's Council.  According to IPAC Diversion and Deferral Guidelines, "The elected prosecutor shall not receive any salary from diversion or deferral funds."    Diversion funds are the fees collected in exchange for foregoing prosecution of an individual.   The obvious reason for preventing this use of diversion funds is similar the ignored limits on use of civil forfeiture funds, to not incentivize the prosecutor to forego prosecutions in order to enrich himself.

Prosecutor Griffin is being challenged by Hancock County attorney Brent Eaton.  In a press release, Eaton suggests that when he confronted Prosecutor Griffin, who is an accountant, tax attorney and CPA, about the illegal payments, Griffin claimed ignorance of the law.  I wonder if Prosecutor Griffin dismisses cases when defendants claim "ignorance of the law" in his county.  My guess is he does not.  Yet when it comes to his own behavior violating the law, Griffin expects a pass.  Hancock County voters should say "no."


Peyton Moore said...

The current method for paying the county salary was set by the COUNTY COUNCIL l in 2010 on the advice of Michael Griffin’s PREDECESSOR, all BEFORE Michael Griffin took office. This history was not brought to Michael Griffin’s attention until April 21, 2014. Michael Griffin spoke with county government officials immediately upon learning this information, and Michael Griffin will appear at a meeting of the County Council on May 14, 2014 to request IMMEDIATE, CORRECTIVE, ACTION to the prosecutor’s budget.

Peyton Moore said...
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