Kentucky state auditor questions sheriff’s movie night expenses

Published 6:55 am Sunday, February 7, 2021

Franklin County Sheriff Chris Quire and the state auditor’s office are asking the state attorney general to decide whether using donated funds for a community event is a proper expense for the sheriff’s office.

In the 2019 fee audit of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, auditors questioned the use of $4,868 in donated funds for a community movie night in 2019.

“Receiving and spending donated funds for this community movie night does not appear to be for the public purposes of the sheriff’s office, such as tax collection, election duties, services to courts, and law enforcement,” auditors wrote in their report.

Quire said the event served the purpose of law enforcement and promoting better community relations.
“To me, that’s part of law enforcement,” Quire said. “I think they’re supportive of it and the purpose was good, but they questioned the expense.”

In his response to auditors, Quire said the donations were recorded according to state statute.

“We feel very strongly that our role as the primary law enforcement agency in Franklin County gives us an inherent responsibility to serve our citizens as well as educate them as to our mission,” Quire’s response said. “Unfortunately most of the general public’s encounters with law enforcement are usually on their worst days or during extremely stressful situations. We feel it is imperative that we assist with hosting events such as this movie night event and other community activities to create a strong bond between our citizens and the sheriff’s office.”

Auditors said state statute allows sheriffs to accept donations but requires that they be used and audited like all other funds in the office.

Expenses determined not to further a public purpose would require the sheriff to reimburse the office from personal funds, or to the donor if the funds were earmarked for the event.

Quire said his office does not have a sufficient budget to host such events without donors, and accepting donations was the only way the sheriff’s office could participate.

Until the attorney general renders an opinion, Quire said he would simply ask donors to pay vendors directly, rather than making the donation to the sheriff’s office.

“We just won’t handle the money,” Quire said.