Auditor General's report: Wayne County Jail commissary money not spent appropriately

County Commissioner says Sheriff Napoleon does not use jail commissary money to help inmates

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - The jail commissary is no small business.

Between sundry sales and payphone use, Wayne County takes in $2 million a year. Inmates who want to buy items such as shampoo or snacks can have family members put up the money at the jail commissary. The county is supposed to use the money made in the store to help inmates get GEDs and such.

However, County Commissioner Ilona Varga says Sheriff Benny Napoleon does not use the money to help inmates.

"It was just 'do whatever we want to do,'" she said.

In his report, Wayne County Auditor General Willie Mayo says it's problematic that jail managers were sitting on the governing board. He views it as a conflict of interest.

The commissary keeps no inventory or sales records and the required quarterly inventories are not performed. Mayo worries about misappropriation and/or loss.

"'The money was there so let's use it.' That's not what we do," said Vargas.

That's just the beginning. There were no finance reports submitted, which is a violation of county ordinance. There were no time records kept for employees.

Most troubling to Mayo were improper purchases from the commissary fund for employee gift cards, a court video camera and computers and printers for the jail tether program which totals more than $41,000.

Mayo says it "violates commissary policy."

The Auditor General also says Napoleon improperly hired employees costing more than $100,000, and they were not approved by the County Commission.

Varga says it comes down to one thing:

"It operated as a slush fund because contracts were approved for over $50,000 for individuals and those should have come to the Commission and they never did," she said.

Napoleon was not available for an interview on this subject Thursday. His jail manager, Jariel Heard, has a family emergency and also could not do an interview. However, his staff says much of this spending is required by a federal government consent agreement which, they say, is why the Sheriff's budget is so badly in the red.

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