A $1.3 million request for essential services at Allen County Jail turned into officials debating who is to blame for a contractual error.
Sheriff David Gladieux and Chief Deputy Gary Grant of the Allen County Sheriff's Department asked the County Council for $1,324,469 to cover food, utilities and contracted medical services at the jail for the rest of the year.
Two parts of the request were easy to explain. Utility costs have more than doubled for the department this year, which Grant noted is something the department couldn't plan. Dining costs also exceeded the budget's projection, in part because of pandemic precautions such as using all Styrofoam products for serving meals.
The majority of the request – almost $985,000 – is needed because of a contractual error with Quality Correctional Services. Gladieaux explained he was unaware of the error until the company said it wasn't receiving payments. That's when he saw the fund for the contract was empty.
The medical provider's contract was struck by verbal agreement by a now-retired chief deputy starting in 2016. The comptroller who worked on the agreements has since left the department. After realizing the issue this year, the sheriff's department entered a formal agreement with the contractor in February.
Services had not yet been paid for November and December, which affected how much the jail paid this year. Because of past errors, the department paid outdated rates at times.
The current contract has billed for January and February. Grant said the department will work with the contractor to fix billing so the department is paying for services being rendered only in the current calendar year.
“The contract was not done properly,” Grant said. “We need to fix this. We know we need to fix this.”
Gladieux said he doesn't understand, however, why he wasn't contacted about his department's bills not getting paid because of the lack of funds.
“Never once did I receive a phone call – directly to me – stating we weren't going to pay those bills,” he said, referring to the auditor's office.
Auditor Nick Jordan asked why Gladieux wouldn't be alerted to that by his staff.
“If your staff doesn't communicate with you, you have to talk about that with your staff,” he said.
Councilman Ken Fries, Allen County's former sheriff, said he knows of at least five days in September when the jail staff went without medical services on third shift. The contract states medical care will be provided by the contractor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, Fries said, the department should be getting some money back from the provider.
Gladieux said he was unaware of what Fries was talking about but that he could have called the sheriff at any time instead of having it discussed publicly at the meeting.
The sheriff said he hadn't talked to any council members about the concerns before Thursday's meeting.
“Perhaps that's the problem,” Fries replied.
After the meeting, Gladieux said the contractor's head nurse covered the shifts Fries mentioned. He said multiple issues Fries brought up during the discussion weren't factual.
When asked about inaccurate statements, Fries said he thinks Gladieux should watch his department more closely.
“I think they need to take a closer look at the entire operations and the contract with QCC,” Fries said.
Councilman Kyle Kerley, the council's president, said he and Councilman Chris Spurr worked with the department over many hours to figure out what the issue was and how to fix it. The main issue at Thursday's meeting was how to fix the situation, he said, not who was to blame.
The council approved the budget request with the note that the department needed to make all possible transfers to its budget to cover the shortfalls before using the approved funds.
Fries was the only member to oppose the request. The former sheriff said he didn't think the request should be approved until the department was clearer on all possible solutions.
“I think,” he said, “some of that money should have come from commissary and not the taxpayers.”