LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Commissioners is expected to meet next week in closed session to discuss receipts of more than $56,000 in unauthorized spending submitted last month by the Scotland County Sheriffs Office.
The receipts, compiled by the county’s finance department, document monies collected from deputies working off duty at Gryphon Group, a military training company at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase, from September 2011 to August 2013, as well as with Troy Construction, a company installing natural gas pipelines in the county in 2012.
Deputies paid an agreed-upon amount per hour worked to reimburse the sheriff’s office for use of county vehicles. Over two years, the sheriff’s office collected $43,557 from deputies working at Gryphon and $9,650 from deputies working for Troy.
In addition to a county investigation into the spending, which was never approved by the county commissioners and of which they were unaware until a few weeks ago, the State Bureau of Investigation is also conducting an inquiry.
Of the monies collected, receipts show $13,410 spent in fuel costs for deputies’ work at Gryphon and $3,148 to pay for fuel used working with Troy. Also from the Troy fund, the sheriff used $2,500 to pay for meals and activities for the youth in the GREAT program and summer camp, which attempt to engage middle school students and turn them away from gang involvement.
In addition to fuel costs, the receipts show $27,911 in other expenditure from the Gryphon fund. Those expenditures included office supplies and cleaning services, payment for work on department vehicles, funding of events such as National Night Out, canine supplies, and office Christmas parties in 2011 and 2012.
In 2011, $2,249 was spent from the Gryphon fund to pay for the office Christmas party, including $1,087 for catering, $300 for a disc jockey, and $150 to rent the Wallace Lodge. That month’s expenditures also included $462 for a children’s toy drive.
Receipts from December 2012 reflect spending of $2,850 on the Christmas party, including $1,800 for catering, $750 to rent Scotch Meadows Country Club, and a $300 DJ. That month also shows expenditure of $667 at Bob’s Jewel shop for a 14 karat gold chain and spiked cross pendant. That amount is noted as “sheriff Christmas gift” in a monthly summary.
When asked, commissioners said that they have yet to thoroughly peruse the disc on which the two years of receipts were released, but that they anticipate doing so in a closed session meeting with the board attorney next week.
“We haven’t had the chance to fully investigate this,” said board chairman Guy McCook. “There are a lot of allegations out there right now and it is our responsibility to investigate those allegations. I don’t think we’re in a place to come to a solid conclusion yet.”
Regardless of how the money was actually spent, the manner of its collection and expenditure were out of line with the Loval Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act.
In September, County Manger Kevin Patterson discovered and rectified the sheriff’s practice of collecting money from deputies working off duty and spending it in-house. At present, deputies working off-duty at Gryphon Group are using a vehicle provided by that company.
“The dollar amount is important, but whether it was $58 or $58,000, it was still spent without the commissioners’ approval,” McCook said. “The commissioners take very seriously their responsibility to oversee the finances and the resources of the county. We feel like its our responsibility to investigate any allegations of mismanagement and misappropriation, to correct those, and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.