County money sits in safe for decades

The Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff squared off on another issue Tuesday, Nov. 8.

County Manager Merv Waldrop told the panel that $53,871.31 was recently deposited into the county’s drug enforcement fund, requiring appropriation approval from the Board to the Sheriff’s Department.

However, there is controversy attached to the money, some of which apparently sat in a safe for as many as 29 years. When Sheriff Alfonzo Williams took over the office January 2017, Sheriff Greg Coursey turned over the money to Williams. Judge Daniel Craig signed a distribution order later that month, releasing the funds to the BCSO under Williams’ administration. Commissioner Evans Martin questioned Williams November 8 as to why the money was not included in the county’s audits.

“I don’t know how the auditor didn’t know about it 23 years ago,” Williams stated. “I inherited it.”

Williams explained that the money was collected between 1993 and 2016. He admitted that there was confusion as to how to proceed with the handling of the money since there had not been any forfeiture filings and the money did not fall under forfeiture proceedings.

“We were just not sure how to navigate this,” Williams said. “It is my understanding that former Sheriff Coursey sent a letter to the District Attorney inquiring about it and we learned about that through the County Manager.”

Williams said when he took over the office; he immediately opened a forfeiture holding account designated for money the BCSO confiscates during crime investigations. The money is placed in a separate account once the court awards it to the BCSO. However, under Coursey’s administration the money was confiscated for various reasons, including found property, evidence or inability to notify family members. Williams admitted that he did not know how to proceed, beyond keeping it in the safe and treating it as evidence. He said he has received calls from people inquiring about how they can file a claim to get their portion of the money back.

“It’s our practice not to keep money in the office that we take from drug dealers or people who are involved in other nefarious activities,” he said. “This was quite a different situation in that the $53,871.31 was not taken by any of my staff.”

Evans expressed disapproval that the money was not reported sooner and used for law enforcement-related expenses. Waldrop told The True Citizen that he is not aware of any letter that Coursey sent to the District Attorney’s Office. However, Coursey did recently bring the money to the board’s attention when he forwarded to the county a copy of the December 30, 2016 statement signed by Williams acknowledging that he received the $53,871.31. However, the funds were not accounted for until the inquiries were made.

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