The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, has completed an audit of the use of DOJ equitable sharing revenues by the St. Charles County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department. The findings:
The Sheriff’s Department miscalculated and misreported interest earned on equitable sharing funds on its fiscal year (FY) 2010 Equitable Sharing Agreement and Certification form. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department misreported a uniform allowance as overtime pay on the form.
The DAG-71 log did not have a consecutive numbering system, and the file did not reconcile each DAG-71 with the amount and date the receipts were received, as required by equitable sharing guidelines.
The Sheriff’s Department used equitable sharing funds for additional uniform allowances totaling $52,500, and these expenditures were not adequately supported.
Equitable sharing funds were used to provide Sheriff’s Department employees with an unallowable retroactive uniform allowance of $141,100.
In total, we identified $141,000 in unallowable costs and $52,500 in unsupported costs related to the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department’s management of equitable sharing funds.
Sheriff Tom Neer, of the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, replied that since “1988 Deputies have been issued $630.00 annually for uniform purchase and maintenance (cleaning). The County does not require receipts due to the bookkeeping nightmare associated with such practice. The clothing allowance is taxed and included in the February payroll annually.”
That excess, un-tracked allowance is salary. And it is not overtime salary–despite what the Sheriff’s Department calls it. An overtime designation requires a direct relationship between compensation and hours employed in excess of specified hours or lawful expectations. Police officers from Equitable Sharing Asset Forfeiture Funds are authorized as salary to compensate law enforcement officers in certain, limited situations:
(1) Express statutory authorization—When federal law expressly permits state and local law enforcement agencies to use equitably shared funds to pay the salaries and benefits of local law enforcement officers or as matching funds in federal grant programs, such use is permissible. For example, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program established by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, allows state and local law enforcement agencies to use equitably shared funds to meet the local match requirements of that program, including grants for salaries and benefits.
(2) Overtime of officers and investigators—Shared funds may be used to pay the overtime of officers and investigators involved in law enforcement operations. This policy is applicable to all officers and is not limited to those working on drug-related investigations.
(3) New positions and temporary or not-to-exceed one year appointments—Shared funds may be used to pay the first year’s salary and benefits of an individual hired for a new sworn law enforcement position that supplements the current law enforcement work force. After the first year, the salary and benefits for that position must be paid entirely from the agency’s appropriated funds. Shared funds may also be used to pay the salaries of temporary (less than one year) positions or not-to-exceed one year appointments. This exception applies strictly to sworn law enforcement positions. Shared funds may not be used to provide funding for unsworn, support personnel (e.g., administrative, secretarial, or clerical positions).
(4) Salary of an officer hired to replace an officer assigned to a task force—When a law enforcement agency assigns a law enforcement officer to a task force17 for a period of at least one year or the life of the task force and hires a new law enforcement officer to replace the officer so assigned, the agency may pay the salary and benefits of the replacement officer from equitably shared funds so long as the replacement officer does not engage in the seizure of assets or narcotics law enforcement as a principal duty.
5) Specialized programs—A law enforcement agency may pay the salary and benefits of a law enforcement officer assigned to specific approved specialized programs which do not generally involve traditional law enforcement functions. Officers assigned to programs such as DARE do not routinely perform narcotics law enforcement or seizure duties. Accordingly, there is little risk that their conduct will actually influence law enforcement priorities or create a conflict of interest.
Even more problematic is that St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department is receiving any equitable sharing payments from investigations that the Sheriff’s Department initiated. Article IX Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution directs ”the clear proceeds of all penalties, forfeitures and fines collected” be “distributed annually to the schools of the several counties according to law.”
To circumvent forfeiture dollars from benefiting Missouri’s children, Missouri police departments give seizures to federal law enforcement. Federal law enforcement return up to 80% of the proceeds of the seizure to local law enforcement.
Karen Dillon, of the Kansas City Star, quoted then Captain Tom Neer in 1999:
At least one sheriff’s official from the other side of the state spoke frankly about the way his department treats drug money.
“We don’t deal in state forfeitures at all, because law enforcement doesn’t derive any revenues from that,” said Capt. Tom Neer of the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, which sends almost no money to the county school fund.
“You won’t find too many local law enforcement agencies participating in state seizures at all.”
It’s no wonder then that schools aren’t receiving much forfeiture money.