Wayne County Sheriff's gas credit cards: The saga continues

Over-budget Sheriff's Office owes BP $142,622 for gasoline

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - When you are late paying your bills, like say your gasoline credit card, what happens? That's right. The company shuts off you and your card.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office is no different although the size of its unpaid bill likely dwarfs anything you have ever seen. Right now the WCSO owes BP $142,622 for roughly two months of gasoline pumped. The last payment came back in April, it's now September.

The annual gasoline budget tops $700,000. Wayne County Commission members have called this embarrassing, and ridiculous. Today it was Wayne County Commissioner Kevin McNamara. Local 4 asked the Sheriff's Office to provide us with a listing of all of the assigned BP gasoline cards and who they are assigned to.

View/download: List of all assigned BP gas cards

Turns out a lot of appointees and department heads get take home cars along with numerous departments like the tether unit and the jail transport unit [to shuttle prisoners to different jails and back]. We are still looking into exactly what these employees do and why many of them they need a take home car, but more impressive is their number. As of July ninety different BP cards are in circulation though none are operative for the time being.

Read back: Gas cards: Wayne County's canary in the coal mine

This, by the way, is the second time this year the BP cards were turned off. Last time the commission found $30,000 on another line item and bailed out the Sheriff. This time the Office of Management and Budget at the Commission's request is less inclined to give similar help. In the end, the real problem is someone has to pay the bill. It will come from somewhere else in the overspent Wayne County Budget. Thus is the fate of the Wayne County taxpayer.

But there is more here than meets the eye here. We also asked the WCSO for a listing of its vehicle fleet, how many cars, vans and SUVs are used in the business of supporting the Wayne County Jail and its small road patrol. Would the number 166 surprise you? It did surprise Kevin McNamara! He estimated just off the top of his head that the Sheriff's Office might need 10 or 20. Finding out there are 140 more than his number just made him shake his head in amazement. He says the County Commission has been trying to get the Sheriff and the county executive to start looking at their operations and start doing the kind of cutting that would be meaningful and has failed. Each time they apply pressure somewhere the executives just figure a way around it and keep up the deficit spending.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon will tell you his jail population --which is close to 1,000 inmates more than it is budgeted for -- is the key problem. A federal consent decree forces him to staff the jail and keep prisoners that are busting his budget. As of Wednesday night, he is $30 million over budget. To get some perspective, Napoleon spent his 2013 budget at the end of June. The fiscal year ends at the end of September. More commissioners than McNamara say while its true the consent agreement is a major problem, it is no excuse for not attacking the deficit problem head on, which they say the Sheriff has no intention of doing.

This is just one more example of the financial disaster that is Wayne County government. The state of Michigan is closely watching, attempting without success to come to some kind of deficit reduction agreement.

McNamara says it's no secret inside the Guardian Building that emergency management is a concern and he is surprised that it hasn't arrived already. Sadly, he believes it may be the only thing that will stem this tide of deficit spending on steroids.

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