Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones’ handling of a snafu over vehicles has earned glowing reviews from some on the Scotland County Board of Commissioners.
Jones revealed at Monday’s board meeting that one of his captains errantly ordered eight Ford Police Interceptors from a Georgia-based car dealer in September. When those vehicles arrived in early last month, Jones said that he realized something had gone wrong.
In response to what Jones suggested was a failure of his office’s current purchase process as a result of “miscommunication”, the sheriff proposed several changes to the process by which vehicles will be purchased in the future.
“From this day forward all vehicles will be handled by (Chief Deputy Mitch Johnson) and myself. All new vendors that we deal with will get a copy of our policy for purchasing anything for Scotland County,” Jones said.
The sheriff also took responsibility for Captain James Pegues’ decision to order vehicles last year without the proper authorization.
“I want to apologize … as sheriff, Captain Pegues is an employee of mine, and he made (the mistake) on my watch and I want to take full responsibility for that.”
That statement in particular drew plaudits from members of the board.
“(Sheriff Jones) was professional, honest and forthcoming and made it plain that there was a mistake. I think all of Scotland County should be proud of their sheriff. He showed his true character,” Commissioner John Alford said Tuesday.
Alford was also pleased with the decision eventually reached by the board to continue with the purchase of six of the eight vehicles delivered to the sheriff’s office in January.
“It simply amounts to making a purchase of three of the vehicles a few months early,” Alford said.
The board voted to use the funds allotted for three vehicles this year and scheduled for the purchase of three vehicles next year to purchase the six cars now.
The board voted 6-1 to approve the purchase of the six vehicles, with Commissioner Whit Gibson casting the only dissenting vote.
Gibson said that he had two objections to the decision to continue with the purchase of the six vehicles but that he was “not displeased” with the resolution.
“I had a little bit of difficulty with the whole process and approving the purchase of something that had been approved by someone from the sheriff’s department without having gone before the commissioners first,” Gibson said. “Second, when you start calculating the money, I was probably more in favor of five vehicles rather than six, because there was probably enough money to just purchase five cars.”
The commissioners’ vote will see them spend approximately $220,000 – a figure which exceeds what was scheduled to have been spent on sheriff’s department vehicles for this fiscal year and the next by about $30,000.
“I’m just not sure how we would pay for six cars,” Gibson said.
Despite his objection, Gibson also offered high praise to the sheriff for his handling of the matter.
“The sheriff should be commended for coming forward and stating what occurred. He acknowledged that some things were done that should not have been done and he assigned that to the appropriate personnel but also ultimately took responsibility for it,” Gibson said.
Gibson also praised Pegues for being present at the meeting along with the sheriff and Chief Deputy Johnson.
Joining Alford and Gibson in praising Sheriff Jones was Commissioner Carol McCall. McCall said that she felt Jones’ response was “appropriate” and that she valued the relationship between the sheriff’s office and the commissioners.
“This was a bad situation and we worked to come up with a good result,” said McCall, adding that the changes in office policy for the purchase of vehicles indicated that a lesson had been learned.
“I hope the citizens will see by (the commissioners’ handling of the situation) that the board takes transparency seriously.”