State to investigate jail finances

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Donald Hunter

The Piedmont Regional Jail Authority Board has asked Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation into areas identified in the management letter of the jail’s Fiscal Year 2017 audit. According to a Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors agenda document, the Piedmont Regional Jail Authority (PRJA) Board’s audit review committee met Feb. 9 and made a recommendation to the PRJA Board to place former Superintendent Donald Hunter on paid administrative leave.

“Mr. Hunter then submitted his letter of retirement on Feb. 12. Jim Davis, who assisted the jail with the DOJ compliance remediation, will serve as interim superintendent,” officials cited in the document. “A phone poll of the full 18-member board unanimously agreed with these recommendations, which is reflected in a formal motion at the Feb. 21 board meeting.”

The motions approved included authorizing PRJA Board Chairman Jimmy Garnett or Davis to contact State Police within one week from Feb. 21 to request a criminal investigation. The second motion was to authorize Garnett, Davis or the audit committee to engage an outside auditing firm for services up to $10,000 to further probe the results of the fiscal year 2017 audit.

“Letting the State Police investigate it is the right thing to do,” said Brown’s Store District Supervisor Mike Hankins. “… I certainly think that we ought to do everything that we can that the county has lost from this and it certainly sounds like some money has been misspent.”

Regarding the audit, Love’s Mill Supervisor Edward Pennington said, “We’ll pick up the pieces from there and see what we need to do. That’s all we can do.”

A memorandum from Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates — a public accounting firm in the practice of governmental auditing and consulting services to local governments — regarding PRJVA’s audit cites 24 overnight stays at the Hilton Garden Inn in Glen Allen throughout the fiscal year (FY) ending June 30, 2017, with only three charges including a documented purpose.

“Management had various travel expenses throughout the year with no documented purpose of the business trip or personnel involved,” officials cited in the memorandum. “Hotel charges were paid with jail credit cards with little support other than hotel bills, and a travel expense detail form was not utilized. In addition, almost every hotel room throughout the years was booked under the superintendent’s name, making it difficult to ascertain who occupied the rooms.”

According to the memorandum, on at least two occasions, excessive charges were made, including a meal charge for three individuals totaling $173.46, excluding the tip.

“A hotel charge at the (Virginia Association of Regional Jails) conference included $50 per night in upgrades, resulting in $285 in excess charges,” officials cited in the memorandum.

According to the memorandum, the American Express statement, which was used to pay for approximately $103,000 in expenses between June 10, 2016 and July 22, 2017, earns rewards points.

A review of receipts disclosed that most hotel rooms are booked under Superintendent Donald Hunter or Captain Lanay Walker’s name.

For instance, various table cloths, chafing dishes, a six-gallon double-base beverage dispenser, various sauce and stock pots, propane for deep fryers, a gazebo and two canopies costing $412.78, including $20.78 in taxes paid, a $1,300 event tent with sidewalls and two sandwich boards were purchased during the year,” officials said in the memorandum.

In another instance “during the year, a check was written from the commissary account for upholstering a vehicle and then reimbursed from the jail operating account.”

The memorandum ended by stating that executive oversight is one of the areas of needed improvement.

“Management sets a tone at the top, the memorandum concluded. This refers to the ethical atmosphere that is created in the workplace by leadership. If the tone set by managers upholds ethics and integrity, employees will be more inclined to uphold those same values.”