Supervisors question sheriff’s spending

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, November 27, 2019

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A request to have the county pay for an invoice for a retirement dinner and gift cards has spawned action by the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) asking the county administrator to draft a policy on departmental spending.

During its Nov. 13 meeting, the BOS requested that a policy be put in place to determine how departments use funds for employee functions following a discussion on an invoice submitted for payment by the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department.

Red Oak/Wylliesburg Supervisor Kay Pierantoni questioned an invoice for payment for $1,275 and a reimbursement request for $500 for the purchase of gift cards.

According to Pierantoni the $1,275 was used for catering of a retirement party for three Sheriff’s Department employees while the gift card expense was for two $100 gift cards and one $300 gift cards for those that were retiring.

“We really do need to have a policy in place,” said Pierantoni “because I do not, think it’s inappropriate for the employees to take up money and decide to do whatever they would like or give a gift. But for us to spend tax dollars especially after we raise taxes 20%, on $500 worth of gift cards and $1,275 to throw a party is inappropriate.”

Phenix/Aspen Supervisor Donna Fore echoed Pierantoni’s request for a policy saying, “I got a big problem with this. I don’t think the people in my district would approve of a $1,200 party. Any department function needs this kind of scrutiny. They’re giving out gifts at parties, or they’re holding parties, and they expect the County to reimburse it? There differently needs to be a policy on that, and not just retirements, but any department  function or gifts to employees.”

The Charlotte Gazette asked Sheriff Thomas Jones following the meeting to clarify the expenses and gifts.

“This was not a ‘party,’” said Sheriff Jones. “This was a very dignified sit-down dinner reception to honor three longtime employees. There was no party, there was no dancing, and there were not any alcoholic beverages served or brought to the reception.”

Sheriff Jones further stated that when someone puts in many years of service to their community, he feels they deserve to be treated nicely. “I feel like the county owes them a nice sit-down dinner plus there’s never been a policy that says this can’t be done.”

Sheriff Jones went on to say that at one time, there was a discussion to have such expenses placed in the county budget.

According to longtime County Seat Supervisor Gary Walker, there had, in fact, been a discussion.

“There was talk about adding a category to the budget, but it seems to have fallen through the crack during the time County Administrator, R.B. Clark was in retirement preparation,” explained Walker.

According to County Administrator Daniel Witt he is currently asking neighboring county administrators to inquire if they have such policies in place. “The Board did not give me a deadline, but I sensed it was an urgent matter,” said Witt. “I’d like to have something back to my Board in December or January.”