City's 1st woman sheriff faces forest of fiscal woes

Barbara Deeley (above) will be acting sheriff, succeeding John Green (right) who resigned Dec. 31.
Barbara Deeley (above) will be acting sheriff, succeeding John Green (right) who resigned Dec. 31.
Posted: January 04, 2011

THERE'S a new sheriff in town but the allegations of serious financial mismanagement remain the same.

Sheriff John Green, a city employee since 1969 and sheriff since 1988, resigned on Friday.

Gov. Rendell yesterday nominated Green's chief of staff, Barbara Deeley, to serve as the city's first female sheriff.

Deeley is left to deal with a dispute with the City Controller's Office over an attempted audit of bank accounts held by the Sheriff's Office. Green first told Democratic ward leaders in June that he was stepping down before his sixth term ended in January 2012. He later said he was leaving in October, but stayed an extra two months to deal with the dispute.

Controller Alan Butkovitz set a deadline of Friday for proposals from firms to conduct a forensic audit of 11 bank accounts controlled by the Sheriff's Office.

Butkovitz, in his request for audit proposals, cited:

_ More than $715 million in 5,320 alleged check deposits to the city from late 1999 to November 2010 that do not match up with Sheriff's Office bank statements.

_ More than 2,900 checks worth a combined $90 million that the Sheriff's Office marked as "void" that do not match up with bank statements.

_ More than $322 million in payments to three title companies that don't have contracts with the Sheriff's Office. With two of those companies "there may be blood or marriage relatives to Sheriff's Office employees."

_ $45 million in various Sheriff's Office "unclaimed funds" bank accounts, with only $4.7 million turned over to the city and state as required by law.

The Sheriff's Office, in response to requests for interviews with Green and Deeley yesterday, issued two news releases.

Green, in a statement dated Thursday, said he was leaving office after "careful thought," confident that he had "personally assured compliance with all records requests from the City Controller's Office" and after hiring a "highly regarded accounting firm" to "insure a fair and accurate analysis of our records."

Deeley, in a letter to Rendell dated yesterday, pledged to run the Sheriff's Office with "integrity, transparency and efficiency."

Her staff then refused to identify the accounting firm hired by the Sheriff's Office.

Deeley is now acting sheriff. Her nomination must be approved by the state Senate.

Green is enrolled in the city's controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan, which means he will receive a $397,488 lump-sum payment and then a pension of $8,464 per month.

The dispute between Green and Butkovitz broke out into the open in October, with the controller complaining that his staff had been stymied in its attempts at a routine audit of three Sheriff's Office bank accounts.

Green disagreed, saying his staff had complied with requests.

Butkovitz, in his call for a forensic audit, said the Sheriff's Office has since provided access to its financial database.

The Sheriff's Office, with 230 employees and a $13.9 million annual budget, transports prisoners, provides security for courtrooms, serves warrants and auctions real estate to satisfy tax or mortgage debts.

In 2009 the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and the Committee of Seventy, a good-government watchdog group, called for the Sheriff's Office to be eliminated.

City Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Bill Green introduced legislation in June that would put the question of eliminating the office on the ballot.

The legislation has since stalled.

Green in July declined to take a position on that legislation.

"Keep in mind, much of the argument that has been put forth for doing away with the office has been about me," Green said then.

"Then it would appear as if I am trying to defend my actions. That's not what I should be doing, nor do I want to do that."

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