State Auditor Finds Mismanagement at Grant Jail

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Grant County Detention Center

R.G. Dunlop / KyCIR

Grant County Detention Center

A state audit released Monday disclosed careless handling of tens of thousands of dollars, sloppy record-keeping and other administrative issues at the Grant County Detention Center. Auditor Adam Edelen said his office is forwarding the findings to the Kentucky attorney general’s office for “further investigation.”

The audit cited the jail for “poorly designed policies and procedures, inconsistent, incomplete, and inaccurate implementation of controls and lack of management oversight/involvement.”

As an example of slapdash accounting and lax handling of money at the jail, the audit noted that $53,121 in cash was discovered in a locked desk drawer last November and December. The audit covered the 12-month period ending June 30, 2014, which was during the tenures of former jailer Terry Peeples and former Judge-Executive Darrell Link.

Auditor Adam Edelen

Auditor Adam Edelen

Stephenie Hoelscher, director of policy and communications for the auditor’s office, said only about 15 to 20 of the 120 local government audits performed annually are referred to a state or federal agency for further review.

A recent Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting series examined trouble in Kentucky jails, most notably the Grant County Detention Center. In the past 12 years, the 350-bed jail has been plagued by abuse, indifference, ineptitude, malfeasance and a raft of administrative failures. (Read the “Trouble Behind Bars” series)

These failures occurred largely under the watch not only of the elected jailers but also of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Kentucky Department of Corrections and Grant County government, KyCIR found.

A private audit last year, commissioned by Grant Fiscal Court and covering most of Peeples’ tenure, described record-keeping at the Grant County Detention Center as being in a “state of chaos.”

Grant County

Grant County

Neither Peeples nor his attorney, Jeffrey Mando of Covington, responded Monday to requests for comment. Peeples, who was voted out of office last year after serving one term, has been accused in more than a half-dozen lawsuits of misdeeds including sexual harassment of staff, demanding that employees lie on his behalf and threatening to fire some who challenged him.

In response to the state audit’s findings, Chris Hankins, the current jailer, told the auditor’s office that numerous changes have been made or will be implemented to improve financial controls and oversight at the detention center.

By law, a county fiscal court is required to provide and maintain “a safe, secure, and clean jail in the county,” and members have authority over the jail’s budget and personnel. But Link, the Grant County judge-executive from 1999-2014, disclaimed any responsibility for the jail.

Link on Monday refused to discuss the audit, which was the third in four years to uncover significant accounting problems at the jail, but the first to be referred to the attorney general’s office.

Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at rdunlop@kycir.org or (502) 814.6533.