Hearing on disbursement of Washington County Jail funds postponed until Jan. 17

Posted Jan. 03, 2013, at 10:54 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 03, 2013, at 3 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Washington County’s Board of Commissioners has postponed until Jan. 17 a hearing scheduled for 4 p.m. today to review the preliminary results of an investigation into alleged misappropriation of an inmates’ benefit fund at the Washington County Jail.

Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith recently suspended with pay the jail’s two top administrators — Capt. Robert Gross, the jail’s longtime supervisor, and Sgt. Karina Richardson, the jail’s clerk — while the matter remains under investigation.

The inmates’ benefit account collects and disburses funds deposited by jail inmates or by others on their behalf to purchase telephone time, cable TV services, snacks, stationery, stamps and other approved commissary items.

Smith said an independent audit of the 48-bed jail’s finances in 2011 determined that the handling of the inmate benefit account was “in compliance.” But Smith said his recent review of that account’s activity indicates years of misappropriation of funds “that could amount to thousands of dollars.”

Chris Gardner, the chairman of the three-member board of commissioners, said Thursday morning the special meeting was postponed to allow both Gross and Richardson more time to prepare.

“Mr. Gross has been late in getting an attorney to represent him, and [Jeffrey] Davidson, the attorney who represents Richardson, had requested an extension,” Gardner said. “The county’s attorney in this matter, Tim Pease, agreed an extension is in order, and we are taking his advice in granting an extension.

“We are as interested in getting this taken care of as anyone,” Gardner said of the board. “We remain committed to finding out what went on here.”

The meeting will convene at 1 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Washington County Courthouse.

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