County Commissioners and sheriff office dispute over Public Safety Grant Fund. - KOAM TV 7

County Commissioners and sheriff office dispute over Public Safety Grant Fund.


Legal action could come aimed at Jasper County Commissioners. 

Jasper County's Sheriff says he's hired an attorney to look into whether voters' wishes are not being honored.  It centers around a one quarter of one percent sales tax. 

Jasper County Commissioners say at issue is the handling of around $300,000 in taxpayer money.  In 2005, voters approved a new sales tax 4.3 percent of that going towards a Jasper County Public Safety Grant Fund.

While the ballot's wording centered only on helping local law enforcement agencies, a county commission at the time agreed the sales tax would fund grants for area police. 
The grant's board would be controlled by the sheriff and the sheriff himself says that is the reason why the issue passed.

Sheriff Archie Dunn, Jasper Co. Sheriff's office, says, "And I had many, many meetings around the county selling this law enforcement sales tax to the public.  Every meeting I had numerous people that would come up to me and say, sheriff we're only going to support this sales tax if you can promise us, or let us believe, that the county commission can't get their hands on this money.   Or control of this fund."

Sheriff Dunn says he even raised money to put the issue on the ballot.

Josh Bartosh, Jasper County Commissioner, says, "He didn't get the money put on that ballot.   The people of Jasper County got the money put on that ballot."

And County Commissioner John Bartosh says it's the people of Jasper County who have since been complaining over the sheriff's oversight of that grant money. 

"From residents. People that were involved in getting this tax, or people that were against his tax completely," says Bartosh.

Carl Junction's Police Department has in the past received this grant money. 

Chief Delmar Haas, Carl Junction Police Dept., says, "I do know there's been some communication issues on our end of it.   We received a commitment letter before we knew what kind of equipment was suppose to be purchased this year, and had to call and ask to find out what we were awarded before we could submit the commitment letter."

County Commissioners say there were also concerns of the Sheriff carrying-over money in the grant fund from year to year.
"The Sheriff thought he could use it.   And then he couldn't, so it got him into a budget crunch," says Bartosh.

Sheriff Dunn says it was the County Auditor's fault, who combined that unspent grant money into the Sheriff's general budget.

"When I'm told by the auditor, this is the amount of money that you have to carry over, and you need to budget for, that's what I did.   He finally caught his mistake last year by the tune of about $300,000 that I had overspent," says Dunn.

The Sheriff says grant money was untouched, but overspending his general budget means his office will have to under budget this year. These mounting concerns led the County Commission on Thursday to take over the grant board. 

Commissioner Bartosh says new grant board members will be chosen. None of them will be in law enforcement.

"Because if they're on there, then they won't be able to apply for a grant," says Bartosh. 
"Well it sounds to me like he's probably anti-law enforcement," says Dunn.
"I've applied for other grants where they don't use police officers to administer the grants," says Haas.

Sheriff Dunn has hired an attorney to possibly pursue legal action against the county's take-over.
The Sheriff says he will meet with his attorney sometime next week.

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