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Forfeiture fund to be more transparent

February 10, 2011|By TRISH RUDDER | trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — The Morgan County Sheriff's Department forfeiture fund account that comes from drug raids needs to be more transparent to the county taxpayers, said Commissioner Brenda J. Hutchinson at the Morgan County Commission meeting on Feb. 3.

Hutchinson said constituents asked her why the county gave the sheriff's department $5,200 to purchase the new K-9 when the department had forfeiture fund money available to purchase items the department needs.

Hutchinson said she sent Sheriff Vince Shambaugh an e-mail on Feb. 2 that the forfeiture fund issue would be raised, and Shambaugh acknowledged in the meeting that he received her e-mail.

Commissioner Bradley J. Close said that Shambaugh sent Hutchinson's e-mail to him.

Hutchinson said she wants to know how much money is available in the forfeiture fund before the sheriff asks for money from the Morgan County Commission.

According to West Virginia code, a forfeiture fund annual report should be submitted to the commission, Hutchinson said.

Commissioner Brad Close said he knew how much was in the fund, and he was OK with the way the money was spent.

Close said on Feb. 4 that when he met with Shambaugh before the commission's January budget meeting, Shambaugh told him the department had about $8,000 left out of the $35,000 that had been in the fund, but it was already earmarked, and that is why $5,200 was requested from the county for the dog purchase.

"I'll gladly give you a list of all we spent," Shambaugh said in the meeting. "I feel like I'm being kicked here," he said.

Commission president Stacy A. Dugan said she did not think the issue should be discussed during the commission meeting's administration section.

"It's unfair for us to talk about something without it being on the agenda," Dugan said.

Hutchinson said she disagreed and that it should be discussed during the administration section because it is an administrative responsibility for the commission to make appropriate budgetary decisions.

"It's our fiscal responsibility to ask what's in the fund per West Virginia code," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said on Feb. 4 the sheriff's department annual county budget includes items such as salaries, overtime, uniforms and equipment.

"Purchasing a dog is not a line item within the sheriff's department budget, and therefore the K-9 could have been purchased with forfeiture fund money, she said.

She said not only did the sheriff's department receive $5,200 from the county for the dog purchase, but Shambaugh requested a $1,000 loan to train the dog, which he received.

"I believe the sheriff's department is being adequately funded and public safety is a top priority for the commission," Hutchinson said.

In January, the commission approved spending more than $50,000 for two new vehicles for the sheriff's department, Hutchinson said.

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