State

Improper bonus, unpaid advance. Eastern Kentucky sheriff’s office has big deficit.

The Breathitt County sheriff paid an improper bonus of more than $5,982 to an employee, contributing to a deficit that the sheriff needs to pay more than $40,000 to erase, according to a report released Monday by state Auditor Mike Harmon.

The audit, which covered 2015, cited three main reasons for the deficit in Sheriff Ray Clemons’ office.

One was that Clemons paid $5,982 to an employee as a “meritorious award.”

The administrative code for the office says that such an award shall be given to the tax clerk when excess funding is available, according to the audit.

However, there was no excess money available because Clemons hadn’t fully repaid a a debt the office owed, the audit said.

In addition, there is no legal authority for such an award, so the sheriff wouldn’t have been allowed to pay for it out of official funds even if his office had the money, the audit said.

The biggest piece of Clemons’ deficit resulted from a $50,000 state advance to run his office that he didn’t fully repay by the end of the year.

Clemons, who “did not fully read and understand the terms and conditions of the state advancement contract,” repaid part of it from the wrong account but owes more than $38,000 on the advance, the audit said.

Clemons also didn’t deposit payments into his office account, totaling $1,650, that he received from the election board.

The sheriff wasn’t aware that the money wasn’t his personally, but rather was derived from his official duties, the audit said.

The audit also said Clemons hasn’t repaid an improper disbursement from 2009.

Clemons wrote a check for $4,375 to the mother of a county employee for damage caused to her vehicle in an accident involving a volunteer deputy, according to a previous audit.

The deputy was chasing someone suspected of a crime when the suspect’s vehicle ran into the woman’s car.

The suspect didn’t have insurance. The sheriff’s office paid for the damage to the woman’s car, according to the earlier audit.

That was not an allowable expenditure of taxpayer money, audits have said.

The finding about the wreck has been repeated for several years in state audits of Clemons’ office.

The most recent audit recommended that Clemons personally deposit $44,034 into his office account to erase the deficit and cover the disallowed spending.

Clemons didn’t respond to the audit and wasn’t available for comment Monday.

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