Wayne County audit raises questions about Jail Commissary spending

(WXYZ) - A Wayne County auditor has questioned the spending and record-keeping of the Commissary inside the Wayne County Jail.  The Commissary allows the friends and family members of inmates to give them money, so prisoners can purchase items such as snacks and toiletries.

A three -member Commissary Board oversees the fund. The Auditor General raised concerns about the Commissary Board's objectivity by having Chief of Jails Jeriel Heard sit on the Board.  Heard resigned in late May after the audit was underway.  Heard told the Wayne County Commission Audit Committee today that he had too many duties anyway, and asked Sheriff Benny Napoleon to replace him on the Commissary Board.  A spokeswoman for Napoleon says the Sheriff requested the audit since the commissary had not been audited since he became Sheriff in 2009.

Auditors also found more than $3,000 in credit card purchases that are "questionable as to the benefit of the inmates." Those purchases included gift cards for employees totaling $1,472 and computers purchased for the Sheriff Tether Unit totaling $1,047. Chief Heard told Commissioners today that the tether computers are a significant benefit to the inmates, because that program allows them to be released more quickly.

Among the auditors other findings:

-the Board has not been submitting financial reports annually and quarterly, which is a violation of the county ordinance

-auditors questioned the Commissary Board's hiring of four people, and recommends that the County Commission strengthen an ordinance to make sure activities purchased with Commissary funds are more educational and rehabilitative in nature

-no policy for keeping track of Commissary staff hours

-lack of control over the Commissary's inventory

-petty cash purchases that appeared to have no direct benefit to the program, including light bulbs for a van for the inmate laundry program

Auditors also found that the Jail Commissary purchased computers, printers, and personal services through Matrix Human Services. The computer and printer purchases totaled more than $41,000.  Personal services provided through Matrix total $101,000 and auditors say that contract should have gone through the Commission for approval.  The positions of Chief Heard, Wayne County Sheriff Executive Chief Eric V. Smith, and Department Director Sue Hall are all funded through the Matrix contract. Heard said that the person who failed to send the Matrix contract to the Commission has since been fired.

Heard also said the Sheriff's office is currently trying to purchase a brand new software system that will serve as the "central nervous system" of the jail, including keeping track of commissary inventory.

If you have a tip for Heather Catallo please call her at 248-827-4473 or email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com

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