Commissioners eye sheriff’s office oversight

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners decided unanimously Monday night to create a committee to look into sheriff’s office expenditures. Commissioners Ed Booth, Jerry Langley and Gary Brinn were named to the committee.

The decision came after a vote to approve a budget amendment that increased the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office original budget by $130,603, which includes additional overtime and part time pay, for deputies, detention officers and 911 dispatchers.

According to Board of Commissioners Chairman Jerry Langley, the committee was formed because of an ongoing complaint by some commissioners that the county has no oversight over sheriff’s office expenditures. Langley said that now, before the primaries and general election that would put a new sheriff in office, was the appropriate time to form the committee, as the decision to do so will not be directed toward any one candidate.

“I don’t see any problem with (creating) the committee,” Langley said, adding that there will be limits to how much financial oversight the committee can have and that that will be one of the topics explored.

“(Other commissioners are saying that purchases are being made that the commissioners don’t know about and didn’t approve,” Langley said. “I don’t have much confidence in that but I look at it this way: better safe than sorry.”

Commissioner Hood Richardson has been outspoken in his criticism of sheriff’s office expenditures, a feud that stretches back years.

“(The sheriff) spends money where he wants to and just sends the bills to the county,” Richardson said. “There’s a whole lot of expenditures that go on over there. No one every audits them. No one ever looks at it.”

Richardson said he is looking at the county police forces established in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties as options for Beaufort County.

Booth, Langley and Brinn will be addressing the issue over the next few months, in preparation for when the newly elected sheriff takes office. Five Democrats and four Republicans are running for the office that Sheriff Alan Jordan has held for the last four terms.

According to officials, much of the overtime pay accrued by the sheriff’s office and affiliated agencies, is due to understaffing.