After a heated discussion involving the two men and County Auditor Gary Smith, Betterton told The Mirror, “It’s his (Crittenden’s) last attempt before the election. . . to make an issue about something that he already had an answer to.”
The court approved the amendment without dissent.
Crittenden faces Democrat Curtis Hollis in Tuesday’s general election, while Republican Greg Mandreger opposes Betterton.
Friday’s controversy surfaced when Crittenden asked how salary shortfalls of more than $55,000 in the jail and $16,000 in the Sheriff’s Office had come about. Smith moved funds from other departments to cover the shortfalls. After the meeting, he and Crittenden disagreed on the total amounts of shortfalls in the jail and Sheriff’s Office budgets.
Smith said that departed employees must be paid compensation time and holiday time, and that the jail “has to be (fully) staffed, no matter what.” He said an employee may receive $15,000 in compensatory time pay. (After the meeting, he said a deputy sheriff who resigned in September received that much.)
Betterton told the court, “If I’m only out $16,000 on the sheriff’s office (budget), I’m doing great.”
He said he was taking in $1.3 million yearly from housing prisoners from elsewhere.
“Not all of that money is profit, Sheriff,” Crittenden replied.
Smith then said Betterton had taken in more money than budgeted for housing inmates. (After the meeting, the auditor said the overage totaled $46,000.)
When Crittenden raised the issue of money being moved from other departments to cover the shortfalls, Smith said firmly, “Mr. Crittenden!”
Crittenden said he was looking out for taxpayers, and Smith replied, “Mr. Crittenden, you’re not understanding the accounting system at all.”
Smith said he could have increased the line item for revenue, but moved money around instead. And “I didn’t consult with him (Betterton) when I did this.”
When the auditor told Crittenden “if you had come and talked to me” about the matter, the commissioner shot back “That sounds like we want to hide it from the taxpayers.”
Said Smith, “It was easier to do it this way (transfer funds).”
Crittenden then asked about a $2,600 shortfall in County Clerk Peggy LaGrone’s office. Smith said an employee left and received compensatory time pay.
“Why are we having to cover something that we should have budgeted for?” Crittenden asked.
County Judge Dean Fowler responded that if the county budgeted for “every contingency,” he believed it would cost about $550,000 more.
Said Crittenden, “Looks like we could be budgeting for X amount of employees.”
Republican Pct. 3 Comm. Lloyd Crabtree then told Crittenden that “we’re not having to declare disaster” to use reserve funds to cover the shortfalls. (Crabtree, a Republican, faces Democrat James Childress in Crabtree’s bid for reelection Tuesday.)
Crittenden said he would like to see about doing something about compensatory time. The court, including Crittenden, then approved budget amendments with Crittenden saying after the meeting that the court believed it was “necessary to make the amendments.”
After the meeting, Betterton told The Mirror he had nothing to do with how funds were transferred to cover the shortfalls. Smith confirmed that.
Smith said he had moved some funds from the county fire marshal’s office and 115th District Court because they were under their budgets. He said moving money around like that is “done every year.”.
Crittenden told The Mirror after the meeting that “If we have to bring another department out of a shortfall...we should be taking money from within that department,” not go to eight others “to fund a department that’s in a shortfall.”
“Especially with the county jail making the kind of revenue. . . the sheriff said it was making,” Crittenden added.
He didn’t respond to Betterton’s implying that his actions were related to the forthcoming election.
Smith said after the meeting that the jail budget’s shortfall totaled $63,000, while the Sheriff’s Office’s totaled $16,000. Since Betterton took in $46,000 more than budgeted for housing other entities’ jail inmates, that left a “net effect” of a $33,000 shortfall, the auditor said.
Overages in the jail resulted from salaries, prescription drug costs, and prisoners’ medical costs, Smith said. The deficit in the sheriff’s office budget resulted from the salary and gasoline line items, said Smith, with the salary shortfall resulting from the deputy who resigned receiving the $15,000 compensatory time.
But Crittenden told The Mirror the shortfall totaled $89,244.33 in the jail and $32,342.79 in the Sheriff’s Office.
Said Smith, “He doesn’t know how to read a report.”