Look first, then act

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A recent audit of the Piedmont Regional Jail Authority brought forth some weighty issues that need to be addressed by the people of the region and their representatives as well as the authority itself.

As The Herald reported, Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates generated a memorandum that essentially summarized the audit of the authority, detailing a lack of official documentation for expenditures of public funds and seemingly hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars in excessive spending.

The memorandum notes that jail employees had 24 overnight stays at the Hilton Garden Inn in Glen Allen throughout the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, with only three charges including a documented purpose.

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“Management had various travel expenses throughout the year with no documented purpose of the business trip or personnel involved,” officials cited in the memorandum. “Hotel charges were paid with jail credit cards with little support other than hotel bills, and a travel expense detail form was not utilized. In addition, almost every hotel room throughout the years was booked under the superintendent’s name, making it difficult to ascertain who occupied the rooms.”

And there were many other details conveyed in the memorandum.

Additionally, Prince Edward County Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr. said he had been given information about inappropriate behavior between a jail supervisor and an employee.

Before any action is taken, we believe that all the information presented should be given serious attention and thoroughly investigated to assure its accuracy.

Timmons said he spoke with County Administrator Wade Bartlett, and Bartlett “said the jail authority has set up an audit review committee to look at (it).”

We hope this will be the beginning of the investigation.

If the information is confirmed, we believe that serious attention then needs to turn into serious action. Abuse of public funds — local taxpayer dollars — and inappropriate behavior cannot be tolerated.

It is difficult to be specific on the removal of personnel at this point, but with regard to the lavish expenses recorded, we agree with Timmons when he said that they should be repaid to the counties that are part of the Piedmont region.

The conclusion of the memorandum was particularly well stated.

“Management sets a tone at the top,” the document reads. “This refers to the ethical atmosphere that is created in the workplace by leadership. If the tone set by managers upholds ethics and integrity, employees will be more inclined to uphold those same values. Employees pay close attention to the behavior and actions of their supervisors, and they follow their leads. It is crucial to an organization’s success for executives and management to set an ethical example, or tone, of how their employees should behave in the workplace.”