Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ghost Employment Issue Raised In St. Joseph Co. Sheriff Pay Dispute

Sheriff Frank Canarecci (D) earns as much or more from the 10% fee he pockets for collecting unpaid tax warrants as he does from his annual $110,000 statutory salary as St. Joseph Co. Sheriff. Deputy sheriffs paid by the taxpayers, however, actually perform the collections work for him. That has raised the question of whether the use of deputy sheriffs to perform collections work solely for the benefit of the sheriff constitutes ghost employment. County Commission President Steve Ross is demanding tax records from Canarecci. The South Bend Tribune' James Wensits reports:

The commissioner said he wants copies of the sheriff's income tax forms regarding the collections, as well as income tax forms for the contract employees.

Ross also said that if the collectors are county employees who made the collections on county time, they may have violated ghost employment laws.

Both Ross and Dobson contended that the sheriff never presented a contract to the commissioners.

However, Canarecci said he has sought repeatedly to get a contract with the commissioners and even had one effort returned unsigned. Canarecci said he can't return any of the fees he has collected because he's already had to pay federal income taxes.

He promised to provide the documentation sought by the commissioners.

The sheriff said two county deputies are making the collections but added that he doesn't know if they do so on county time.

If they do, Canarecci said, dismissing any possibility of ghost employment,
it is permissible because it is a function of their jobs as county police officers.

"This is not double dipping. It's a function of their jobs," he said. Canarecci also revealed that the county police civil division also participates in the tax collections and that he receives a bonus from those efforts as well.

Although Canarecci has contended that the fees he has collected since the first of the year range from $2,000 to $6,000 a month, Dobson said he has learned that for at least one month the sheriff received $8,000.

Help me out here, but I thought the township constables were required to pay persons who serve court papers out of their own pockets because the collection fee for serving the court papers belonged to the constable. Why should it be any different for the sheriff?


Doug said...

I don't have the ghost employment statutes fresh in mind, so I can't comment intelligently on that larger issue, but if the Sheriff keeps 10% of the collections and the county or the State gets the remainder, then the county employees aren't working "solely" for the benefit of the Sheriff.

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely insane that he should get ANY FEES. How many other BS like this is going on in the state? I BET it adds up to BIG bucks!

Anonymous said...

The $ 13 service of process fee
in civil cases is supposed to
go towards the county's deputies'
perf. While the Elkhart County
Sheriff only charges the $ 13
for serving papers related to civil cases started on or after 7/01/06, Canarecci charges the
$ 13 on everything, even those
pre-6-30-06. The rumor was when one judge questioned him about doing so, Canarecci said, so what he didn't care whether his interpretaion of the statute was incorrect, he was going to collect the fee whether or not he was entitled.

Anonymous said...

I think the larger issue is the imcompetence of the commissioners of St. Joseph County. Both Dobson and Ross said that they were shocked to find this out, but as the executive managers of this county, shouldn't they be aware of where the money flows in the county? And then to return a contract with "NO!" on a post-it, how can you blame a guy for taking a bonus that the state offers for going above and beyond to return tax money to the state and county coffers? Especially since they refuse to raise his pay according to the state statutes...if my boss offered me a bonus for doing some extra work, and my immediate supervisor thought I should give it to him instead, I think I would have a few choice words for him!!

Anonymous said...

Does Saint Joseph county even have Constables?
If not then they should. You are right it saves taxpayers a great deal of money! I just moved here from Marion county where there are a number of them.