Controller: Bail money not turned over promptly

May 15, 2014
The exterior of the Washington County Correctional Facility. - Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Washington County Controller Michael Namie has taken the Washington County jail to task for not immediately turning over bail bond money to the clerk of courts office.

Though no money is missing, Namie’s audit showed 23 of 39 receipts were not remitted to the clerk of courts office on the next business day during 2013.

Those 23 receipts, over the course of a year, totaled $38,997. In comparison, the clerk of courts office issued receipts for 195 cash bonds last year.

The amount of time money and paperwork was kept at the jail ranged from two to 18 days, Namie reported Wednesday to the Washington County prison board.

“Receipts were issued out of numerical sequence. One receipt was marked ‘void’ when, in fact, the bond was collected and remitted to the clerk of courts,” the audit noted.

Namie recommended the jail follow its own policy and turn over bail bonds to the courthouse office on the next business day following collection, and that better record-keeping procedures be practiced by jail personnel when issuing receipts.

When an inmate posts bond during courthouse business hours, the matter is handled through the clerk of courts office. Jail personnel, however, collect bail bonds when the courthouse is closed.

Namie said he discussed the matter with jail administrators “to get the money where it needs to be in a timely fashion.”

“Sometimes the procedures don’t account for everything,” said Warden John Temas after the prison board meeting. “Just one person is designated (to turn over the cash.) It needs more depth. When he’s not there, who does it?”

Temas declined to identify the employee responsible for task. Neither did the controller’s audit of the jail identify the person.

As the policy is updated, Temas said he would have the controller’s office check the draft.

Clerk of Courts Barbara Gibbs said Wednesday, “There are procedures in place for a reason. They should be adhered to. We make deposits every day. That’s a rule we follow and we never deviate from that.”

The jail issues a temporary receipt to those posting bail on behalf of an inmate and the clerk of courts issues a “formal receipt,” Gibbs said.

Those posting bond at the jail must produce cash, a certified check or money orders.

The jail does not handle property bonds, Temas said, because this involves establishing clear title to a deed.

When property is posted as a bond, generally in cases of $100,000 bond or more, the clerk of courts immediately files a lien in the prothonotary’s office to preserve the amount of the bond in case the property is sold.

Those charged with crimes are sometimes released on their own recognizance. In requiring a bond, a district judge or common pleas court judge aims to insure a defendant’s appearance in court. If the defendant fails to show, he or she forfeits the bond.

By an administrative order issued by President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca, the “warden or his designee” has been accepting bail bond money since Aug. 2, 2006. Temas succeeded Joseph Pelzer as warden after Pelzer’s retirement in February.

“It makes sense that we take it at the correctional facility because everyone and everything is there,” Temas said.

The warden’s report showed at the close of April, the jail housed 328 inmates, including 275 males and 53 females. Of these, 209 were awaiting trial or sentencing.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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