Tethers now focus in Wayne County budget problems

Wayne County Commission investigates how Sheriff's Department is $250,000 over budget for tethers

Author: Rod Meloni, Local 4 Business Editor, @RodMeloni
Published On: May 22 2013 05:05:32 PM EDT   Updated On: May 22 2013 05:33:33 PM EDT
DETROIT -

Wayne County's ever-worsening budget problems has prompted a closer look at how the county spends money.

Another Sheriff's Department contract is found to be way off target.

The controversy surrounds the tethers the court system puts on its released inmates and probationers. Wayne County has four different companies supplying such tethers, but only one company was being used. The contract ballooned to the breaking point.

On Wednesday at the Wayne County Safety Committee hearing, the Sheriff's Office took county commissioners to school on the differing ankle bracelets prisoners use. Commissioners were curious how a contract meant for four companies ended up going more than $250,000 over budget, and most of the that money funneled into just one company -- Michigan Tether, of Clinton Township.

Committee Chair Ilona Varga says something smells bad hear.

"And the Sheriff's Department says, 'Well that's OK it was just an honest mistake, it was only like $320,000 worth,' I mean, that's a lot of money," Varga said.

The cancellation paperwork the county sent to Michigan Tether essentially freezes their business. Wayne County won't pay another dime to the company.

Michigan Tether owner Anthony Rubino was saddened to hear his company won't get anymore Wayne County money this fiscal year.

"Absolutely, we're concerned. But we were willing to take the risk in order to provide public safety because our equipment was already on these offenders. What were we going to do, take them off?" he said.

Varga says it was bad management.

"I don't think it was an honest mistake on the part of the company because the company invoiced and they knew exactly how much their contract called for," she said.

The Commission likely will get a reworked contract for Michigan Tether. Whether it signs off on it is another question, considering it received much more money than it was supposed to.