Figures don’t lie, but liars figure

An Examination of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office 2014 Budget
Guest Post: Sally Mann

Sheriff Chapman has implied on his Facebook page, in the Washington Post and in public forums that although he was forced to revise his 2013 budget, he has since “returned” that extra $4.3+ Million he was given by our Board in 2013; and he suggests he has used increased efficiency and better management to lower costs in order to “return” these $4 million. The County’s reconciled budgets do not agree.

It is well known that in 2013, Sheriff Chapman got into trouble with the Loudoun Board of Supervisors for not abiding by his adopted budget, as described by various news stories at the time. The Sheriff’s Office adopted budget in 2013 had to be “revised” upwards with an infusion of $4.3+ million.

In 2014, the Sheriff’s Office adopted budget was $76,390,474. Again, this budget had to be revised upwards to $77,344.343.61 (an addition of approximately $1 Million.)

In reviewing “savings” in the 2014 budgets, is important to understand that in 2014, the Board of Supervisors changed its “vacancy savings” policy for all agencies, intentionally over funding all salaries and benefits, but expecting savings to be returned. In years past, the Board had withheld a vacancy savings from all agency budgets (except the Sheriff’s Office, who got special treatment in 2013) based on the statistical estimation of an 8% employee turnover rate for each agency, and a 3% routine savings in unpaid salary, benefits, etc. This action in 2014 to fund 100 percent of salaries and benefits (knowing 100% was not necessary) removed the special treatment the Sheriff’s Office had gotten the year before, when vacancy savings were not withheld from the Sheriff’s budget.

Changing the vacancy savings policy allowed the Board to give the Sheriff’s Office in 2013 and all of its agencies in 2014 a few million extra dollars, more flexibility in spending, and made expected “vacancy savings’ easily applied to other expenses. It also allowed the Sheriff ~or any agency~ to deliberately leave positions vacant for political budget cover, not have the boots on the ground required for public safety as expected by taxpayers, and spend the vacancy “savings” on other budget over runs.

A close look at the FY14 reconciled budget shows: first, the original adopted budget had to be revised upwards by about a Million dollars ~ demonstrating an expected shortfall. Second, salaries that were not used due to employee turn over amounted to $2,280,150.47 while overtime pay (time and ½ pay) continued to soar, reflecting an inefficient use of funds. Further savings resulting from vacancies and turn over were benefits that did not need to be paid out, such as FICA, retirement, health insurance, life insurance, long term disability, etc. These savings approximated another $800,000. Vacancy savings for unspent salaries and benefits plus the $1 million “revision” in the LCSO budget add up to more than $4 million.

When we also consider that the Sheriff had access to funds other than in the budget, use of at least $396,479.22 PY Fund balance… it becomes clear that he overspent his expected spending in 2014, and did not actually “save” anything.

Lots of other details in the 2014 budget will give a flavor of how the numbers are manipulated. For example, the Sheriff’s office paid $200,000 less in taxes than they requested in their budget ~ how could they not know the exact number for the amount of taxes they would pay? Little items that no one would pay attention to drew my attention, like the category of laundry, and housekeeping, where the adopted budget asked for $193,058, then in the revised budget the Sheriff wanted $210,838.06 but he only ended up spending $120,166.17? Courthouse security also resulted in approximately $200,000 unspent? The original budget asked for $2,203,162 for replacement of minor machinery, and then it was revised upwards (because you would assume they found a need) to $2,795,077.80 but then the Sheriff spent less than the original requested amount.

Did the Sheriff ask for more in these categories, padding expenses, intending to over spend on things like uniforms, knowing the Board would not question taxes or courthouse security, but they would question hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on new uniforms (when the old ones were in fine shape)?

In the end, Mr. Chapman has not returned any money due to efficiencies in his management. Any suggestion that he has adopted efficiencies to “save” 4 million dollars is simply a deception and not supported by the real facts. The truth is that Mr. Chapman has not been able to manage without manipulating numbers every year ~ even when his adopted budgets needed to be revised upwards.


11 thoughts on “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure

  1. FINALLY!! Someone thoroughly understands what actually happened to the budget under chapman. Sally Mann has seen through his bureaucratic smoke & mirrors and revealed in plain terms the utter lack of fiscal ability possessed by chapman. Many things can be forgiven but not this kind of budget recklessness. Chapman and his ilk need to go.

  2. This is a colossal sidestep, and the question remains: what response does this team have to Sheriff Chapman’s response to Jim Plowman’s letter?

    It’s all fun and games (for some) until…the FBI actually shows up (unlike 2007).

    This asset forfeiture issue is real, and staying on the attack with various “squirrel!” shouts does nothing to bolster any contrived demand for “change”.

    It looks like Chapman brought some change, and some folks didn’t like that.

    Come on Sally, you’re better than this.

    Or you should be, if you’re going to try to claim the high road.

  3. Barb, I think you should look at the very first page of the budget, where it shows that the Sheriff’s Office budgeted for $2,523,324.00 for court fines and forfeitures and only brought in $1,352,973.89. This is revenue they were counting on to run their department. So they were $1.2+ Million short in this category… shows not only mismanagement of the asset forfeiture program but also of the budget,,, and as for spending time on big drug busts, look at line 43041 Fire Lane Violation Fines, a lot more revenue collected there, meaning a lot more time and effort put into ticketing for fire lane violations… lots of interesting detail in this budget…

  4. Cathy, I think since calling the Sheriff’s bluff with that letter from Jim Plowman turned out to be such a colossally bad idea, that everyone seems to have decided to pretend it never happened and shift to spamming a different talking point.

    At least until word from group central decides on the next attack.

    Yes, fiscal conservatism is important to a lot of people.

    Which may be why some, for about a day now, have been asking for an explanation of that asset forfeiture issue that has a real FBI investigation underway on it.

    Not a fake FBI investigation based on some WaPo in-kind contribution hitpieces as in 2007, but a real one.

    that no one wants to talk about, at least today.

    Yesterday honesty and integrity and vision and so forth were big on the list, but today it’s Fire Lane Violation Fines, and mum’s the word on the Sheriff’s response to Jim Plowman.

    Guys, you can only try to play good cop/bad cop if YOU have a GOOD COP to play your game with. What you have is some bad bloggers, and a real cop who isn’t playing games as your target.

    When will whoever is in charge of this mess decide what the response to the Sheriff’s letter will be?

    Or is this it? “Fiscal conservatism is important to some of us”.

    Well then let us ALL find out if we’re about to be forced to vote for two people involved in an item under investigation by the FBI for embezzlement in an unchecked asset forfeiture program, or not vote at all.

    Sally, this is a giant blog-squirrel. What about the Sheriff’s response? You’re “Pam”ming.

    I’ll be back if/when there’s an actual response to the Sheriff’s letter. Not holding my breath though.

  5. oh, and as for vote/not vote at all? I mean in November, when it REALLY counts.

    Not in the Tax Pig circus of yet another two-seat primary

  6. Barbara, I think Mr. Plowman is probably preparing a response to the accusations in Mr. Chapman’s letter, and this piece that I wrote was focused on spending, before the Plowman letter came out… But as you know, the CW ATTy does not advise the Sheriff, the County Attorney does. Mr. Simpson may have requested the 2008 board (Andrea, Scott York, Stevens Miller, Jim Burton, etc.) to change the custodial relationship, but that would have been with the advice of the County attorney. The money is the Board’s money and is considered “revenue” to the Sheriff’s office, applied to his budget. Jim Plowman only prosecutes the drug dealers, he is not the custodian of the prisoners or their assets that were seized by the Sheriff. It is ludicrous to try to blame Jim for the decision in 2008 to allow the Sheriff to be the custodian of seized assets, with its own bank account, etc. It is not Jim’s management decision, either, that resulted in the theft. For almost 3 years of Mr. Chapman’s term, he allowed cars to sit (by his own admission for years) unsold, unliquidated, not turned into the revenue a good manager would have desired. Also, Mr. Chapman alone was responsible for the structure and staffing of the Asset Forfeiture program, putting one deputy in charge, isolating him, making him exclusively in charge of handling the cash and assets, with no checks and balances. I know Roger Zurn had raised objections a long time ago to some of the issues surrounding asset forfeiture, so for Mr. Chapman now to blame Mr. Plowman, is a little far fetched. Jim had no responsibility, no authority, gave no advice (he cannot give advice to the sheriff’s office), did not staff the custodial program… And blaming Eric Noble or his assistant (who quit over this) when the Sheriff admits there was no oversight of the Asset Forfeiture program, is also far fetched. Eric Noble and Michelle Draper simply kept the ledger after they were informed of deposits, receipts, etc. If no one told them, they did not know… usually it is a $2.5 M amount that comes in yearly…so not hard to steal $230,000 over 8 years… no one could reasonably be expected to suspect anything with the way that Mr. Chapman allowed the asset forfeiture program to continue to be run for three years into his term. Eric’s assistant apparently questioned when she was given a court order to return $$ to a defendant (not the usual scenario, usually the $$ is forfeited) and she noticed that the deputy had deposited the money that same day – when it would have taken a year or more to get the court order and the money should have been deposited when received. She should be applauded for thinking and not just “doing her job” but instead she and Eric Noble have been torched for political reasons… it was not their management decision to allow the one deputy no oversight or even a second pair of eyes on his work, no audit… This is on Chapman, and no one else, as much as he would like to blame Simpson, or anyone else… for three years Mr. Chapman allowed this to happen, when he is the one who should have known this was not a wise set up and might be tempting for even the best of deputies, and this one was apparently very well liked.

  7. Jeanine might say–too long, didn’t read.

    I will say, again, waiting for the response to the sheriff’s points. Which I don’t know how Jim Plowman will be able to do much with effectively that doesn’t further endanger him in November.

    At this point, all BobO has to do for the rest of the year is wear a decent suit and keep his mouth shut.

    You guys need to stop digging–this is like “Pam” blog-campaigning for Stockman all over again, and that turned out well, since he’s currently chairman of the BoS and all. Give it a rest until there’s an actual response.


  8. If Barbara Munsey and the rest of the Government Reform Committee that she was a part of in 2012 would have done their due diligence and been more probative, maybe she wouldn’t be so in the dark today.

  9. Tony, even if the BoS had given the GRC direction to investigate the CA’s office, not appropriate. The FBI is the right place for that.

    The only thing we were charged with was exploring the option of continuing with a Sheriff’s department, or a police department.

    Loudoun County still operates under the Traditional Form of county government, enacted in the Reconstruction Constitution of 1868, in which all power resides in the Board of Supervisors.

    Since the early 1920s, new forms have been approved in Virginia to address the needs of counties that were growing beyond the purely rural model.

    In these alternative forms, positions like County Administrator etc have statutory rights and duties, which is an important distinction beyond the traditional form: it protects them in their position with their responsibilities.

    All counties in Virginia that have police departments, except for one much smaller than Loudoun in area and population, have an alternative form of modern government.

    To create a police department here, without updating our form of government, and with our ridiculously underhanded pendulum politics, placing it under the direct control of whomever the politicians of the moment may be, is a recipe for exactly the kind of disaster it sounds like Chapman has been trying to clean up since he was elected.

    And which it sounds like some old boys are desperately trying to make sure stays just the way they prefer it, and yes very much in the dark.

    Nice attack and diversion, by the way! I bet it’s no fun waiting to hear what to say in response to the Sheriff’s letter.

    What CAN you all say that won’t dig a deeper hole for November?

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