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MAHONING COUNTY Billing suggestion is old ground to sheriff



Published: Fri, February 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



False-alarm billing fell through while Wellington was city police chief.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Sheriff Randall Wellington experienced a flashback to a time when he was the city's top cop when he read a performance audit of his department.

One of the recommendations from Ohio Auditor Jim Petro was a system to bill people or companies when deputies must respond to a false security alarm.

Such a measure could bring in about $12,000 in fees to offset expenses the department incurs in responding, Petro's report says.

Wellington has been down that road before, and it was not a smooth ride.

"We tried to do that when I was [Youngstown] police chief," he said. "It was very controversial, and it just never got off the ground."

He's relying on the county prosecutor's office to work out the legality and practicality of such a move.

"It's going to be kind of complicated," he said. "I don't know whether we'll do that or not."

Planning: It will be one of several issues addressed in an action plan Wellington said he's developing based on the performance audit.

He and his staff will evaluate each of the 15 recommendations in the audit and decide how to best address them, he said.

Included will be a look at underbilling the city and federal government for housing inmates in the county jail.

The audit said the county is reimbursed $75 per day for each city inmate held at the jail, although it actually costs the county $89 a day to keep them. Federal inmates cost $83 a day to house, but the county is reimbursed only $67 per day.

Wellington said that's something that will have to be negotiated with city and federal authorities.

"Right now, we have a contract that locks us into those [lower] amounts," he said.

Other recommendations in the audit report deal with capital improvements, vehicle replacement, courthouse security, prisoner transportation and record-keeping.

Praise: The department also received nine commendations for its performance, including use of an electronic fingerprinting system that improves the identification process.

bjackson@vindy.com




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