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April 30, 2013

Commissioners say amount set by sheriff for off-duty pipeline escort detail insufficient

Cindy Ward
Staff Writer

Issues surrounding the sheriff's office were again discussed at the regular meeting of the Ripley County Commissioners on Monday, April 15.

Auditor Bill Wagner read a letter from Sheriff Tom Grills dated April 15 informing commissioners that money receipted to the sheriff's office for fuel reimbursement to the county for the pipeline transport detail with Northern Clearing has been transferred to the auditor for deposit into the sheriff's garage and motors account. The transfer amount was $1,155.

Grills stated in his letter that the decision to hold back money from deputies providing escorts and lot security was based on the "circumstance" even though statute requires his office to handle "this type of detail, as well as other public safety traffic-related issues." The letter stated that Grills felt the amount was fair compared to the daily pay deputies received. A copy of the fuel log was attached for reference, which showed deputies used 297.6 gallons of fuel for the pipeline detail.

County Attorney John Ertel reported that Northern Clearing's attorney had responded to his request for a list of days and/or shifts deputies provided off-duty transport escorts or lot security between Jan. 14 and March 2. Ertel said it appeared off-duty deputies worked 93 shifts ranging from four hours to 10.5 hours per shift, generating a total of $23,949 in off-duty compensation.

Commissioners expressed $1,155 was not sufficient to cover the cost of fuel, insurance and wear-and-tear on vehicles used in the escort detail. They then authorized Ertel to discuss and seek reasonable reimbursement to the county for the use of the sheriff's department vehicles for off-duty transports and security details on a per-day basis. Commissioners determined a daily per diem rate of $150 be submitted to Northern Clearing for use of the sheriff's cars.

Concerning another issue, Wagner read a second letter from Grills that said per Indiana Code IC 5-14-3-3 (a), he was requesting a "copy of all of the other Ripley County elected officials rewards points stemming from their credit card use." The letter also stated that per Indiana Code IC 5-14-3-4 (b) that he would not be releasing the points redemption that was requested by commissioners, because he had "reason to believe a criminal offense has occurred" regarding his identity.

Grills went on to reference Indiana Code IC 35-43-5-3.5, which includes "a person who knowingly or intentionally obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses the identifying information of another person with the intent to (1) without the other person's consent or (2) with intent to harm or defraud another person; assume another person's identity; or profess to be another person." Violation of the code is considered to be a Class D felony.

The accusation came from Grills following an attempt by Wagner to access the sheriff's credit card account to obtain a point redemption report. The letter from Grills states that Wagner tried to "access the account without his authorization," resulting in the account being locked. He referenced an email that he sent to Wagner on April 9 asking him for his "statutory authority" to access the sheriff's credit card account without his consent," adding that he had not heard back from Wagner.

Wagner said he called the credit card company back in October to obtain a copy of the point redemption report for the sheriff's credit card. After unsuccessfully being able to obtain information from the automated system, Wagner said he called customer service who informed him that he was not an authorized user on the account and information could not be released to him. He then said he sent a request to the sheriff asking for the information from him directly.

Wagner asked Ertel for advice in the matter. Ertel explained since payment for the sheriff's credit card is made through county funds, rewards belong to the county, also. He asked commissioners if they had approved the sheriff's card, along with two other cards issued to the sheriff's office, adding that any interest or penalties could fall on the cardholder. Reiners said commissioners were unaware that any credit cards had been issued to any county departments or offices.

Ertel went on to explain the credit card(s) must be utilized for county governmental purposes, and it is the auditor's duty to periodically review the use of the funds to ensure appropriate use. Ertel also said the redemption record request comes from authority through the State Board of Accounts, as the invoices are paid for with public/county funds. He added that as pertaining to Indiana Code IC 5-14-3-3 (a) the use of the point redemption report is not part of a criminal investigation.

Commissioner Rob Reiners asked Ertel if anyone aside from commissioners is authorized to request a credit card that spends tax dollars. Ertel said only if it is authorized by commissioners. Ertel said there is no specific statute that applies, but the compliance manual for the auditor issued by the State Board of Accounts provides authority to request the accounting of the redemption of credit card points earned. He suggested if the reward points report was not provided voluntarily by Grills, an audit could be requested from the State Board of Accounts.

A claim for two new cruisers was discussed. The title affidavit said titles would be issued to the Ripley County Sheriff. Commissioners advised Wagner to inform Grills his request will be approved once a correction has been made issuing the titles to them instead. A title affidavit from the sheriff stated the auditor already has 12 titles, in addition to five new ones that were attached. The affidavit stated "commissioners are responsible for proper filing, storage and safekeeping, holding harmless the Sheriff of Ripley County for the improper use or loss of said titles." It was unclear if commissioners signed the affidavit.

OPL reviews behavior policy

Cindy Ward
Staff Writer

The Osgood Public Library Board of Trustees met in regular session on Monday, April 22, in the meeting room at the library in Osgood. Present were President Sherry Cunningham, Vickie Butz, Melodie Busch, Patty Asche, Treasurer Richard Parks, Gene Pitts, Lisa Bradshaw, Sandra Gloyd, Shirley Bocock and Connie Coyle.

The first item under new business was equipment disposal. Butz reported that they have been cleaning out closets and reported stacks of non-working out-of-date equipment, i.e. printers, keyboards, old projector, tvs, etc. Butz requested permission to dispose of the equipment to make room for more storage. It was unanimously approved to check with Jac-Cen-Del Schools to see if they would like any of the equipment prior to disposal.

The Security and Patron Behavior Policy was again reviewed. Following some discussion, members voted to change the policy to read "to include use of tobacco products or electronic devices." This refers to the library's no-smoking rule in the policy.

Property insurance was discussed under old business. Butz noted that the insurance expires on June 22 and a recommendation will need to be presented at the May meeting. Pitts, Bradshaw and Busch volunteered to be on the committee and gather quotes. Once quotes are received, Asche and Parks will review them, make copies and email them out to members for review. The committee plans to meet at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, at the Milan branch of the library.

The one-year review of the Reciprocal Borrowing Program was also reviewed. Butz said that so far this year, she has not given out any library cards at the Osgood branch, but the Milan branch gave out 45 cards last year. Members agreed that their patrons are benefitting from the program and voted to renew the policy.

In other business, members voted to waive library fines for five spots to enable children and adults to participate in the summer reading program. The waiver does not apply to lost items, only old fees. The summer reading program will kick off on June 8 and several prizes will be available to win, including scooters.

Also discussed was some of the wording in the personnel policy pertaining to health insurance coverage. Members agreed that the policy should say that insurance is not available to new employees until the end of a 90-day introductory period. Pitts suggested adding "group health insurance will be provided as a fringe benefit to library employees." Another addition made stated that life and vision insurance will continue to be offered to full-time library employees.

Butz said she has applied for Herman and Crum and Frank Tarter grants through the Ripley County Community Foundation to purchase three computer monitors and promotional items for the 100-year celebration coming up. The 100-year committee will meet again on May 9.

Butz reported that the new part-time maintenance person is doing a great job and requested permission to increase his hours to 35 per week, making him a full-time employee. The request was unanimously approved.

In Butz's director's report, she reminded trustees that she would be on medical leave for the next five to six weeks and Asche would be filling in. She also informed members of a conference, webinar, roundtable and in-service attended recently by library personnel. An author who has written a book about Indiana will be at the library on June 6.

With nothing further to discuss, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Osgood Public Library Board of Trustees will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 28 at the main branch in Osgood.

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