A former supervisor of elections has been asked to repay the county what auditors say was more than $3,000 in salary overpayments she received during her 16 months in office.
In his Jan. 2 to county commissioners, County Attorney Michael Shuler said he had not yet finished the due diligence that they tasked him with a month ago regarding the alleged overpayments to Pinki Jackel.
Appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in late August 2015 to succeed the late Ida Elliott Cooper, Jackel served as elections chief for 16 months, through Jan. 3, 2017.
In his report last week to commissioners, County Coordinator Michael Morón reiterated that any overpayments disbursed by the county were the responsibility of the supervisor of elections, since constitutional officers administer their budgets. He said any legal costs in the collection effort would fall on the current supervisor of elections, Heather Riley, and that it made better financial sense to have the county attorney handle the matter, rather than outside counsel.
“It’s not the board responsibility. We would do the supervisor of elections a favor to assist her,” said Morón.
“The supervisor of elections office is kind of short funded. I don’t think hiring legal counsel is in her budget, and she’d have to come back to us (for the funds). The best thing to do is use the county attorney,” said Chairman Smokey Parrish.
“Let’s rectify the problem, that’s all I got to say,” said Commissioner Cheryl Sanders, “I don’t want it coming back on this board.”
The money in question – $3,368 minus about $359 in withholding - emerged in an audit commissioned by Riley in early 2017 for the two prior budget years. Riley defeated Jackel in the Nov. 2017 general election.
Riley said the audit by a new officeholder was standard procedure and practice, and that Ralph Roberson and Associates determined that the total owed resulted from overpayments in 2016 and in 2017. During fiscal year 2015-16, the Franklin County supervisor of election was paid, as per state mandate, $77,190. That amount was raised by Gov. Rick Scott to $94,676 in 2016-17 as part of a statewide move to bring the supervisor offices in each county up to the amount paid the clerk of courts, tax collector and property appraiser.
Riley said she wrote Jackel a letter in Aug. 2017 summarizing Roberson’s findings.
“She wanted to investigate it on her own. She wanted to talk to her bookkeeper, and meet with the auditing team, to make sure she feels absolutely comfortable where things stand,” said Riley.
Jackel said she received Riley’s letter on Aug. 31, about two months after the audit was completed. “If I had been notified in a timely manner we could have straightened that out and made adjustments and worked it out,” she said. “I was never given that opportunity prior to receiving a letter from Heather. I’ve never seen the audit.”
Jackel said the discrepancy occurred because unlike county employees, who are paid on the 15th and 30th of every month, employees in the supervisor of elections office were paid weekly. As a result, it became a matter of which budget year her paycheck was posted.
She said Bonnie Myrick, who worked as bookkeeper during Jackel’s tenure as elections chief, met with Paul Marxsen on her behalf, and reviewed all the facts and figures.
“I was paid the exact amount I was owed for my service, less one cent,” said Jackel. “For the time I served I was paid exactly what I was owed, what I earned and not one penny more. I was not overpaid.
“I agree that my salary was posted incorrectly into the budget cycle,” she said. “But I completely know I was not overpaid.”
One thing that both supervisors of elections agree on is that they are confident the matter can be settled amicably.
“I’m very hopeful that those can all be worked out. We haven’t all sat down and had discussions yet,” said Jackel. “As far as I’m concerned I think there is a workable solution. There hasn’t been a complete hearing of the facts and when there are I think it will be worked out.”
Riley said it is her responsibility to exercise oversight of supervisor of elections’ money.
“As trustee of county funds I believe we have to do due diligence in making sure all funds are accounted for and disposed of in the proper manner,” she said. “I’m definitely not making any accusations whatsoever. Let’s get it taken care of as quickly as possible so it doesn’t just rock on, rock on.”