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Sheriff voids check, gives cash back to park district

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 15th, 2014

THE Oregon Park District Board of Commissioners took action to terminate the existing agreement with the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department and approve a restructured police services agreement at their regular meeting Tuesday night.

The Oregon Park District and Ogle County Sheriff’s Department initially entered into a police services agreement in August 2012. The Oregon Park District was responsible for an annual payment of $5,000 to the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department and in return would receive the following services on park property:

• Reactive patrol support

• Assistance with crimes on Oregon Park District property

• Community service and community crime prevention presentations

• Equipment and support of park district police officers in providing a variety of community programs deemed appropriate for good community policing, administrative services and dispatch services

“The sheriff’s department provided services such as training and dispatch that as a small department we wouldn’t have access to. We have no control of how or where Sheriff Harn spent the money,” park district executive director Erin Folk stated.

The agreement

Per the agreement the Oregon Park District submitted a payment of $5,000 in August of 2012 payable to Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn, which was cashed, and a payment of $5,000 in September of 2013 payable to Ogle County Sheriff’s Department. The September 2013 payment had yet to be cashed.

Folk said during the term of the agreement, the sheriff’s department did provide the services agreed upon. The Oregon Park District Board terminated the existing agreement and adopted a restructured agreement. The new agreement eliminates the annual payment for services and incorporates the beautification of the Ogle County Courthouse lawn as reciprocation for the Sheriff’s Department’s efforts. The Oregon Park District staff has been involved with downtown beautification since 2009 and integrated the Ogle County Courthouse lawn to its efforts in 2011.

Ogle County Treasurer John Coffman does not have record of either check being received through the county. If the funds were deposited with the county the only way to bypass the treasurer would be through the tow fund, which until February the sheriff had discretionary spending.

“Originally I had apprehensions. I never wanted to see the fee as a revenue source, but I believe it could be a positive revenue source that isn’t paid for by taxpayer money and with proper application could be positive,” Gouker said.

In February the county board voted to put control of the tow fund with the treasurer. According to Coffman the sheriff has not turned over the tow fund account.

On March 27, Sheriff Michael Harn contacted park district officials informing them of his intent to terminate the existing police services agreement and return all unspent funds. The following day, March 28, Harn voided and returned the undeposited September 2013 check and reportedly walked into the park district office and returned $3,754 in cash. Harn told Folk the payment was no longer necessary for the services offered by his department. In total Harn returned $8,754 of the $10,000 he received.

Coffman said he has no knowledge of the where the cash had come from and has not seen the tow fund books to show if the park district funds were deposited there.

“It was inappropriate to return funds in the form of cash,” Coffman said.

Harn did not return a call for comment on Wednesday.

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