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Inmates freed when sheriff runs out of money

Updated:

JAY, Okla. (AP) _ A shortage of money is forcing the Delaware County Sheriff's Office to free misdemeanor prisoners at the county jail because the county can't pay for their meals.

Law enforcement officials in Grove, Colcord, Kansas and West Siloam Springs were notified Friday that prisoners jailed on misdemeanor charges were being released because the county couldn't afford to feed them.

Colcord Police Chief Doug Inman said he got a call from the sheriff's office on Thursday notifying him that a misdemeanor prisoner the county was holding for Colcord was being released without having to post bail.

Inman said the town pays the sheriff's office $10 per day to house its prisoners, but he said he told the town clerk not to pay the county because the town lost money when the prisoner was released without a cash bond.

``I've had to tell my officer on night shift that if he makes an arrest, we don't have any jail to put a prisoner in,'' Inman said. ``I'm calling Adair County to see if they can house prisoners for us.''

Records in the county clerk's office show that in the first four months of this fiscal year, which began July 1, the sheriff's office spent half its budget for the year and has a $63,000 deficit.

The records show that the office began the fiscal year with a half-year, temporary appropriation of $328,142. But officials said the actual half-year appropriation will be $265,063 when county commissioners approve the budget on Thursday. The sheriff's office is prevented from dipping into the next half-year's budget.

Officials said Sheriff Jim Earp most likely will have to appeal to commissioners and the Oklahoma Excise Board to bail him out with extra money. Earp is not seeking re-election but the new sheriff will need the money when he takes office in January.

County Commissioner Bruce Poindexter said funds can be placed in the sheriff's accounts to cover his payroll and jail operating expenses once the 2000-2001 budget is approved.

``Money was deposited wrong in the sheriff's cash accounts, and we don't have any control over them,'' Poindexter said. ``When the budget is approved, we should be able to put some money in the sheriff's accounts.''

In the meantime, Poindexter noted that the sheriff's office purchased groceries without obtaining a purchase order. Poindexter said it shouldn't have been done.

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