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Sheriff inquiry expands

Grady County Sheriff Harry Young received a letter last week requesting information by the Grady County Board of Commissioners, but the letter outlines much more than concerns previously discussed in public meetings.
For many weeks now, the commissioners have discussed publicly concerns regarding two checking accounts maintained by the sheriff that were not known to the county’s auditor or included in the annual audit of the county’s finances.
The most vocal commissioner on the matter has been Dist. 3 Commissioner Charles Norton and, last week, he went so far as to make a motion to request a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into the sheriff’s office.
However, Norton’s motion died for a lack of a second and the remainder of the board thought it better to put the board’s concerns in writing and transmit them to the sheriff.
In the Nov. 19 letter signed by Chairman Elwyn Childs, the commission expressed concerns on a number of issues other than those regarding the two bank accounts.
In addition to information regarding deposits and expenditures from the two checking accounts, the commission also would like to know:
‰Did you authorize or have knowledge of Grady County uniformed deputies providing security service at the Hud’s Convenience Store in the Beachton area while using county owned equipment and vehicles?
If so, were any of these deputies on regular duty hours (being paid by the county) and if so, was there a cash payment for these services authorized by the owner of Hud’s to you or your representative?
If the deputies in question were off duty, were they uniformed and using Grady County owned equipment and vehicles to provide these services and, if so, was there a cash payment for these services authorized by the owner of Hud’s to you or your representative?
Have you or any of your deputies provided through county escort service for wideloads and received payment for these services while on or off duty and while utilizing county owned equipment and/or vehicles?
Have you and/or any of your deputies ever participated in a bad check collection service for any business in Grady County while utilizing Grady County equipment and/or vehicles and been paid for this service by the owners of those businesses?
In documenting their request for information concerning the two checking accounts, the letter from Chairman Childs states the commission is seeking receipts for checks written to private credit card accounts and receipts for checks with blank “pay to” slots written on either of the two sheriff’s checking accounts. In addition, the commission would like information as to where the deposits for the two accounts came from, and where the materials purchased from the two accounts is now.
When contacted this week by The Messenger, Sheriff Harry Young said that he had provided County Administrator Rusty Moye with information regarding the checks with blank “pay to” lines and checks written to pay personal credit card accounts.
However, the sheriff noted that the board of commissioners, under Georgia law, does not have authority over how the sheriff’s budget is spent. According to the sheriff, two separate court cases have affirmed the sheriff’s authority to spend his budget as he sees fit. The commission’s only authority is to set and approve an annual budget for the sheriff’s office.
As far as responding to the other concerns outlined in the letter the sheriff said, “There is really nothing to respond to. There has been no wrong doing. Everything we do is in accordance with state law, and the Constitution gives me the authority to operate my office as I see fit.”
The sheriff said he appreciated the support of local businesses like Hud’s for hiring his off-duty personnel rather than employing an out-of-town security firm.
“Our people are so underpaid it is ridiculous. What is even sadder is the fact that the Grady County Sheriff’s Office has the smallest staff, based on population, and the smallest operating budget of any of the 159 Georgia counties. We are doing the best we can with what we have. A lot of folks do not realize just what all we do,” the sheriff said.
In regard to his budget, the sheriff also emphasized, “I will not put money in front of people’s lives. I have vowed to protect the people to the best of our ability and that is exactly what I’m going to do as long as I’m sheriff. We’ve gone over budget with our overtime, but that is to be expected when you’re already understaffed and, at the same time, the number of 911 calls is on the rise, thefts are up and the demands for court room security continue to increase.”

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