Receipts document sheriff’s office spending

Mary Katherine Murphy

March 13, 2014

LAURINBURG — More than 800 receipts released by Scotland County’s finance office on Thursday document the spending of some $56,000 collected by the county sheriff’s office mostly from deputies who used county vehicles to perform off-duty work.

Compiled by the sheriff’s office and turned in to the county last month amid a state investigation into the department’s spending, the receipts, scanned as image files onto a disc, show purchases of gasoline and vehicle services as well as spending on community events, employee events, flowers and gifts.

The printed and handwritten receipts are contained in folders labeled “Christmas,” “Gryphon,” “Snack store,” and “Troy,” and document monies collected and spent by the sheriff’s office between September 2011 and August 2013.

“All the receipts are in and you can see the funds that were collected,” Sheriff Shep Jones said Thursday. “There are receipts to reflect the money that was taken in, so all of the money spent is accounted for.”

The receipts chronicle a total of $58,000 in income, primarily from deputies who turned in a portion of money earned for each hour they worked site security at Gryphon Group, a military training company at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase. The deputies turned in $5 per hour from September 2011 to June 2012, and $4 per hour afterwards.

Of the $58,000 collected, the expenditure of about $56,000 is accounted for.

Jones estimated in February that about $42,000 had been collected, but on Thursday he said that number referenced only that which was collected from work performed at the Gryphon Group.

According to County Manager Kevin Patterson and Jones, the “Troy” folder includes submissions made by deputies who in the spring of 2012 worked off-duty in a similar arrangement with a company placing natural gas lines in the county. The “Christmas” and “Snack Store” folders include monies spent on employee Christmas parties in 2011 and 2012 and the revenues and expenditures of the sheriff’s office employee canteen.

Across all four areas, the income includes $5,074 in snack sales and $53,194 in vehicle fees collected by deputies.

Jones said money collected in snack sales was used to reimburse the department for drinks and small food items held at the front desk of the sheriff’s office, consumed by employees who work in positions that don’t allow them to leave when hunger strikes.

Until August 2013, funds collected from deputies as compensation for use of county vehicles during off-duty work were turned into the sheriff’s office, where they were spent internally on a cash basis. That practice and the monies taken in and spent are currently under the scrutiny of the State Bureau of Investigation.

The vehicle fees, Jones has said, were collected to offset the cost of gasoline and maintenance incurred by the use of the vehicles for off-duty security detail at the Gryphon Group. On Thursday, Jones said while deputies continue to work for the company, Gryphon CEO Michael Vaden is now providing a vehicle, stocked with gasoline, for use during each shift, eliminating the need for deputies to contribute a part of their wages to the sheriff’s office.

However, Jones said, deputies could still be required to contribute if they are using county-owned vehicles, which they do during off-duty work for the town of Gibson, Richmond Community College, Cypress Bends Vineyard, and “anytime anyone calls for an officer to provide security at a function.”

“They’re always working part-time work and that’s typical with law enforcement,” Jones said. “You can check any county in the state and that’s going to be the norm.”

The largest single expenditure of funds collected over the two-year period was gasoline at a total of $17,198, followed by community events at $12,254 and employee events at $9,467. Other line items include vehicle repair and maintenance at $5,034, flowers and gifts at $2,426, and meals at $1,971. A bill for Jerry’s Deli and Grill came to $1,088.

Jones said Jerry’s Deli and Grill catered the office Christmas party, which serves about 70 employees and their families with food and alcohol, but additional money was spent on the party as well. Other events include employee appreciation day, which features a cookout and items such as bounce houses for employees and their families.

Community events, Jones said, range from donations for the county’s Relay for Life to National Night Out and the week-long summer camp the sheriff’s office hosts for 50 middle school students each year. The camp includes meals, a graduation party and a field trip, taken this year to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. Previous field trips, he said, have included horseback riding and laser tag.

At $19,639, the Nic’s Pic Kwik chain of convenience stores was the vendor most represented in expenditures. Significant sums were also spent at Sam’s Club, with receipts of $7,111.

The receipts also total $1,859 spent at Brady’s Flowers, $1,681 at Caulder’s Service Center and Towing, $1,801 spent at Walmart, and $1,350 at Sonya’s Florist, a business owned by the wife of Sheriff Shep Jones.

Flowers, Jones said, were purchased for “get well” gifts and for funerals, some of which were held for family members of employees and others for past public officials such as school board members. It’s usual for sheriff departments to contribute in that way, Jones said.

He said flowers were purchased at whichever florist offered the cheapest price, which in some cases was his wife’s business. Money spent at Walmart and Sam’s Club, Jones said, was for a variety of miscellaneous supplies, most likely for the summer camp.

Jones said having funds that allow the department to contribute to community events is crucial to its success.

“You have to be community oriented, be involved in community, allow citizens to see you in another capacity other than blue lights and uniforms,” Jones said. “If you isolate yourself from all these events that take place in the county and then you think when something happens people are going to give you information, you’re wrong.”

It is unclear when the SBI will conclude its investigation. County officials have said an internal investigation will be conducted.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.