A statewide fund to pay for training corrections officers has been used by county sheriffs as a “slush fund” for expenses such as travel, weight-lifting equipment and private club dues, a deputies group says.
The Deputy Sheriffs Association of Michigan has waged an ongoing battle against sheriffs, including those in Oakland and Macomb, for better oversight of the fund. The state created the fund in 2003 by assessing a $12 fee to all prisoners booked into county jails.
Deputies first sued the Michigan Sheriffs Association in 2006, arguing the money collected — now estimated at $10.5 million — was not all used for training. The deputies group wants state lawmakers to transfer oversight of the fund to another state agency and abolish the Sheriffs’ Coordinating and Training Council, which was created to oversee it.
The latest battle in the skirmish is set for today. An Ingham County judge will hear the sheriffs association’s request to dismiss a May lawsuit that accuses the council of distributing funds to ineligible departments. The judge, James R. Giddings, issued an injunction in 2007 against the council to stop such payments.
The deputies group sued again recently, saying the injunction wasn’t being followed. The deputies allege the sheriffs association tried to get around the injunction by approving $40,000 for unspecified training academies.
“This was a well-intended law, which has been hijacked,” deputies’ association attorney Jamil Akhtar said. “Funds intended for corrections training have become a personal slush fund for sheriffs, who have used it for other purposes.”
Sheriffs defend their use of the funds and say they got guidance from the state attorney general that expenditures are legal.
“Who are they (the deputies association) to question how I spend Macomb County’s money?” asked Sheriff Mark Hackel. “I will spend fees as needed so taxpayers don’t have to pay the bill.”
Under the law, sheriffs charge $12 to each person booked into their county’s jail. Sheriffs can remit all $12 to the state, which distributes the money in training grants, or keep $10 and send the remaining $2 to the state.
Only departments that remit 100 percent of the money are eligible for grants, which come from the fees sent to the state. All 81 sheriffs in Michigan who operate jails now retain the $10 share and decide what training their corrections officers need.
Giddings in 2007 permanently barred the council from releasing any training funds to departments that do not contribute the full $12.
A deputy must undergo an initial 160 hours of training to become a certified local corrections officer. Annual recertification is set at 20 hours per year.
Proceeds from the $2 state share of the book-in fee go into a local corrections officer training fund. That fund, managed by the council, totals more than $2.5 million, council documents show. The deputies association believes the state’s sheriffs have retained about $8 million in book-in fees since 2003, and that much of that money has been spent on other things besides jail officer training.
To try to track how funds were spent, the deputies association filed Freedom of Information Act requests with sheriff’s departments across the state, Akhtar said.
According to the deputies association, misspending includes:
• Wayne County — Nearly $848,000 collected in booking fees in 2003-07 and nearly $132,000 spent on corrections training. The deputies association said the department provided no documentation of expenditures.
• Oakland County — $263,116 in overtime to help implement a jail management system, plus $38,963 for weight-lifting gear for a deputies’ workout room.
• Macomb County — $169,000, including an $18,000 prisoner van and $120,000 for an electronic jail security system, in which an officer records that someone walked a route at a particular time.
• Clinton County — $1,006 for the sheriff and jail administrator to attend a sheriffs conference and $5,527 for audio/visual gear.
• Jackson County — $80,000 transferred over three years to balance the sheriff’s budget. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon was unavailable to comment; an aide said Wednesday the department was looking into the allegation that the deputies group wasn’t provided with documentation of training expenses.
Larry Orlowski, president of the deputies association, says data from the FOIA requests show a “consistent pattern of abuse” and little or no oversight of spending.
Clinton County Sheriff Wayne Kangas denies paying sheriff’s association dues and inappropriate travel costs with book-in fees. “I’ve never used any of the funds,” he said. “A jail administrator is eligible to use them for conferences.”
Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said the weight room and overtime spending is “clearly within the law.”
The deputies association alleges that Jackson County Sheriff Dan Heyns transferred book-in fees funds to balance his budget.
“No funds are being misspent or comingled,” responds Heyns, who has 10,000 prisoners a year.
Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, introduced legislation in December to abolish the council and transfer $11 of the $12 book-in fee to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, which sets state training standards. Richardville’s bill awaits a hearing in the Senate judiciary committee.
Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, a former law enforcement officer who also sponsored the 2003 training act, believes it is healthy “to review the law to see if it is working as intended.”
“If it’s not working properly, fix it,” he said.
3 responses to “Deputies Go After Sheriffs For Funds”
Posted by corporal frank wood
a county sheriff should have his feet held to the fire for using funds that he knows is to be used for education of sworn deputies and its correctional staff, in a time of the law suit a deputy sheriff who is trained in what he is doing can save lives and protect his employer from civil liability.
funds used for any other means other than the education and enhanced training of deputies is wrong and cannot be ignored or tolorated by sheriff’s associations,sheriff union officials, and the courts if thats what the funds were to be used for. many times sworn deputies beg for training on the basic things the need to updated on such as their sidearms,chemical agents, and impact weapons only to be told it’s on the way which is wrong and the employer can find no rush to train until a law suit is filed in a use of force matter or if funds are to be suspended or taken away.
Posted on October 27, 2010 at 8:19 PM
Posted by Radio Head
Misappropriation of funds always happens in some form or another in almost all kinds of establishments. It’s such a shame that we, taxpayers, have to suffer in these kinds of faulty judgments.
Posted on September 13, 2010 at 10:18 PM
Posted by Donna Selman
Hackel’s comment “Who are they to question how I spend Macomb County’s money?” is indicative of poor leadership skills and a complete misunderstanding of the expectations of the job. Here is your answer Hackel, they are the men and women that look to you to be their LEADER and they are the men and women that are TAXPAYERS. They have absolutely every right and in fact responsibility to question how funds are being spent!
Posted on September 10, 2010 at 9:30 AM