The Gas Problem
A spent budget line item and a communication breakdown left the Hardeman County Sheriff’s Department with no credit cards for gas on May 10, although a budget amendment was made to fix the issue and gas credit was being given by a local vendor without any interruption of service.
The county uses a company called WEX, which is a credit card-like card that allows deputies to make gasoline purchases at any station that honors the card. The credit limit of $27,200 was exceeded on May 9, prompting the credit stoppage, according to the Hardeman County Sheriff’s Department.
“The money actually ran out in March,” said Hardeman County Sheriff John Doolen, noting gasoline prices are up more than 20% in this fiscal year and that they only get reports from the county mayor’s office every other month, “But we didn’t find out about it until May 3 when we got our report from the county.”
Hardeman County Mayor Jimmy Sain said his office notified the Sheriff of the problem in mid-April. On April 17, Diane Barber of the Hardeman County Mayor’s office sent an email to Doolen, Chief Deputy Greg Moore, and administrator Norma Greve stating the money left in the budget would not be enough to pay the March 31 invoice of $11,683.62, which was due April 26 and had been turned into the mayor’s office on April 11.
Sheriff Doolen submitted a budget amendment request on May 3, but the bill for April, dated April 30, in the amount of $12,774.53 had been sent by WEX as well, totalling $24,458.53, just short of the credit limit. On or about May 9, the credit limit was reached and the cards were suspended by WEX.
Sain said his office was following county policy.
“The county policy says invoices have to be signed by the elected official. It needs to be done and given to us in a timely manner. If the funds are in the budget, the bill is automatically paid. It is the responsibility of each elected official to track his or her budget to assure that funds are available. It is not the responsibility of the county mayor to track everybody’s budget. If funds are not available, it is red flagged and cannot be paid.”
Doolen says the problem has come up in the past, but they were covered before.
“In the past, they would keep paying the bills, but they would let us know we needed to do a budget amendment. But this time they just stopped paying,” he said.
“The sheriff was notified by accounts payable at least 13 days in advance that they had insufficient funds,” said Sain. “He had made no attempt to do the budget amendment until after the fact. Someone at the Hardeman County Sheriff’s Office has to put in the effort to track their budget. Blaming the county mayor is not the answer to their administration problem.”
Doolen said he will ask for a formal budget amendment from the county commission on May 21, their next scheduled meeting, but would like the 2019-2020 budget to meet their needs from the start.
“We’ve gone over every year,” said Doolen. “But they keep setting the line back to $100,000.”