Sheriff programs audited by county

A review of money collected by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department for programs as an alternative to County Jail found internal controls over the cash were inadequate and deposits were not made timely.

A separate review of a fund meant to be used for the benefit and education of inmates revealed that some money was spent instead on a printer, attendance fees to a conference in San Francisco, two floor buffers and other items.

The reports were conducted by the county Auditor-Controller’s office and will be presented at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, along with Sheriff Ian Parkinson’s responses. The timeline covered in the reviews predates Parkinson, who took office in January.

Alternative programs

Participants in the department’s Home Detention and Alternative Work programs pay a fee to cover the county’s costs. In the 2010 fiscal year, the programs netted $451,718.

The programs “have been extremely successful at keeping down the jail populations and allowing minor offenders to keep their jobs and maintain family relations,” Parkinson wrote in a response to Auditor-Controller Gere Sibbach’s review.

Sibbach’s office reviewed the programs from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010; and from July 1 through December 2010.

The review found that, in general, receipts were accounted for, recorded and deposited. But it found there was no separation of cash handling, reporting and reconciling duties required by an auditor-controller policy.

It also found that deposits were not made in a timely manner. The result: large amounts of cash — in one instance, $19,000 — were not quickly deposited.

Parkinson said that the office has separated the cash handling functions and has three people involved in the process. He also said an online payment method for the Home Detention program will soon be in place, so that officers in the field won’t have to collect the money.

Trust funds

Money for the Inmate Welfare Trust Fund — intended to be used for the benefit, education and welfare of inmates — comes from sales of commissary items and proceeds from phone charges.

Any money not needed for inmates’ welfare can also be used for the maintenance of jail facilities or to pay the salary and benefits of staff who conduct drug and alcohol or other programs.

But the review found some purchases that didn’t meet the requirements, including medical equipment, employee travel expenses, and four computer desks for sheriff’s officers. The report found that the purchases were “within the letter of the current law, (but) they do not meet the intent of the law” as laid out in a 2008 Santa Clara County lawsuit settlement.

“We will make sure there is a direct relation to the use of the Inmate Welfare Fund and the benefit of the inmates,” Parkinson wrote in response.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.