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Audit of Breathitt sheriff referred to attorney general

The Breathitt County sheriff and his bookkeeper were overpaid by $15,496, according to an audit of 2007 finances.

State Auditor Crit Luallen referred her audits of the Breathitt County sheriff's office and the sheriff's tax account to the attorney general's office, the Breathitt County attorney and the IRS.

"Our audits found instances of weak controls over salary and personnel in the Breathitt County sheriff's office, which allowed questionable financial practices that are being referred to law enforcement," Luallen said.

The audit found that Sheriff Ray Clemons paid himself $5,670 more than was allowed by state law; the bookkeeper, who was not identified and is now on medical leave, was overpaid by nearly $10,000.

In addition, in 2007, Clemons received a $400 cash advance, of which he repaid $300, and the bookkeeper was advanced $4,850, of which she still owes $1,300. The sheriff's daughter, who is the assistant bookkeeper, was advanced $1,630, all of which was repaid.

County Attorney Brendon Miller said he sent a letter to the sheriff requesting the bookkeeper's pay stubs. He'll try to collect through negotiation and, if necessary, through legal action, "on behalf of the taxpayers," Miller said.

Miller also advised Clemons to immediately pay back the salary that was overpaid.

Clemons' biweekly pay, the auditors' report said, was calculated as though there were 24 pay periods in the year, instead of 26, so his biweekly pay check was larger than it should have been. In 2007, the sheriff was paid $71,708, the auditor's report said, more than the $66,038 limit on sheriffs' salaries in Kentucky.

The bookkeeper was issued 44 payroll checks throughout 2007 — that's 18 sporadic checks in addition to the 26 regular checks, the auditor's office said. During the audit, officials were told that the sheriff and bookkeeper agreed that the bookkeeper's salary would be $37,442 at the beginning of 2007. But during the course of the year, the bookkeeper was paid $47,268. State law allows just $42,432.

The matter of the bookkeeper's salary was turned over to the county attorney, and Clemons responded in the auditors' report that he was putting safeguards in place and repaying money owed. The sheriff could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In all, two accounts that Luallen's office audited, the sheriff's tax account — which collects tax bills from residents of the county — and the fee account used to operate the office, had deficits of nearly $13,000. Nearly $9,500 in tax bills had not been deposited.

Auditors found that 44 tax bills totaling $9,455 had been received and marked as paid, but the payments had never found their way into the tax account, leaving a deficit of more than $7,266. The auditor's report found record-keeping problems that resulted in accounts marked as delinquent, with no proof or record.

The sheriff responded that 17 deposit records had been found, but the auditors couldn't find enough evidence to support that.

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