The Fresno County Sheriff's Office overbilled the state by well over $1 million for training, weapons and overtime under a court-security contract, according to an audit by the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
The Fresno County Superior Court, which requested the audit, is in discussions with Sheriff Margaret Mims about reimbursing the court for some of the disputed amounts, officials said.
The loss of the money could create further problems for Mims, who already this year has laid off 30 correctional officers, closed a floor at the jail and released inmates early because of budget problems.
Auditors criticized the Sheriff's Office for billing for excessive training, and providing inadequate and even falsified records to justify expenses.
The Sheriff's Office disputes the audit's findings, first reported Monday by KFSN (Channel 30), and is negotiating with Superior Court officials over the timing and amount of the reimbursement, said Assistant Sheriff Tom Gattie. "It could result in officers losing their jobs," said Gattie, who said the office did not knowingly break any agreements.
In a written statement, Bruce Smith, presiding judge of Superior Court, said the court is considering options for reimbursement and will meet with Mims to discuss them.
"It is unfortunate that the court has been overbilled by our fellow justice partner by over $1 million," Smith said in the statement. "We acknowledge that we could have been more diligent in our scrutiny of these bills and certainly less trusting."
The Sheriff's Office has a $13 million contract with the state to provide security at the Superior Court in downtown Fresno and in other locations. The office handles bailiff functions in courtrooms, patrol and security screening in other court areas, and escorting prisoners.
The state audit, completed in July, is the second in less than a year to criticize Mims' financial management. A report by the county's auditor-controller, issued in March, concluded that the Sheriff's Office and other county departments used overtime excessively.
Read the full story at the Fresno Bee.