GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Council took steps Wednesday to correct a budgeting error that resulted in $16,000 of the prosecutor’s salary being taken from a fund that couldn’t legally be used to pay his wages.
The result of the council’s action: Michael Griffin won’t be asked to pay the money back, and another fund will be used to pay him.
Griffin had been collecting a portion of his salary – a $5,000 annual bonus from the county – from the prosecutor’s diversion fund, which is prohibited by state law. The council decided Wednesday that going forward, the bonus will come out of the county food and beverage fund.
The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which dictates how diversion funds may legally be used, posted guidelines in 2005 stating the funds could not be used to pay a prosecutor’s salary.
The budgeting error went undetected for three years and made waves in the days leading up to the primary election because it was brought to light by Griffin’s challenger, Brent Eaton, who went on to win the Republican nomination.
Griffin had offered to repay the entire $16,000 collected since 2011. The council told him Wednesday that wasn’t necessary. The only money that will be reimbursed is the $1,730 collected so far this year, and that will also come from the food and beverage fund.
“As long as it’s resolved,” said Griffin, who appeared at the meeting after the council had decided what to do.
Because the $5,000 bonus for 2014 was budgeted out of an improper fund, the council was under no obligation to provide the remainder to Griffin this year, attorney Ray Richardson told the council. The bonus is just a small part of the prosecutor’s total salary. He is also paid $133,744 annually by the state.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of giving Griffin the bonus. Council members Marc Huber, Kent Fisk and Debbie Bledsoe voted against the measure. Jim Shelby, Bill Bolander, Tom Roney and John Jessup voted in favor of it.
“I think once you’ve given it (during the budgeting process) for that year, you are obligated,” Shelby said.
Griffin has been adamant that he inherited the problem from his predecessor, Dean Dobbins, who would have been charged with presenting the 2011 budget to the council in 2010, before Griffin took office.
Dobbins, who retired after losing to Griffin in the 2010 primary and now lives out of state, said he researched diversion law when he was in office and would not have asked for money from the diversion fund to pay the prosecutor’s salary.
Minutes from the 2010 budget hearing suggest Dobbins presented the budget that moved the expenditure to an improper fund, but Dobbins said that option could have been suggested to the council at a different time.
“I can tell you, point blank, it never came up – at least when I was present,” Dobbins said. “No place did I ever suggest that you could legally take money from the diversion fund to pay the prosecutor.”
Wednesday, Jessup said the council should take responsibility for the error.
“If there was a problem in there, we should have known because we are bound by the statute,” he said. “We should have been aware of that.”
Kristy Deer of the Daily Reporter staff contributed to this story.