Prosecutor raising questions

BUCKHANNON — A discrepancy between the county clerk and prosecuting attorney was brought to attention during Thursday’s Upshur County Commission meeting.

During a brief intermission — as commissioners were waiting for their 9:45 a.m. appointment — Prosecuting Attorney David Godwin asked if it was too late to be put on the agenda.

County Administrator Carrie Wallace advised Godwin he could speak with commissioners, but no action or decision could be made until the item was put on next week’s agenda.

Godwin said there was a disagreement between him and Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith regarding what rules should govern a particular situation with one of his employees.

He explained in November 2017, his employee Matthew Cutright, the county’s victim advocate, traveled for training through a Victims of Crime Act grant.

Following the training, Cutright had requested reimbursement from the county for travel fees. Godwin said that based upon grant requirements, expenses must be calculated through the state per diem.

Godwin noted because of state procedures pertaining to per diems, Cutright’s travel expenditures should have been reimbursed by the county without documentation of payments. Godwin said Cutright’s per diem was set at $18 a day for five days.

He stressed he was not talking about county travel, but rather travel that is approved by the VOCA grant and is to be paid under the grant’s procedures.

“This county agreed to the grant documents, which includes that they will follow state procedures. We provided to you certification from the people who administer these state funds, and said the state procedures are to pay state per diem rates. That’s how those grant funds have to be administered,” he explained.

Godwin said to Smith, “The rules administering these grant funds are according to the state procedures. The County Commission approved that and signed it. And you’re taking it upon yourself to say, ‘No, we’re going to call the county for this.’ And first of all you don’t have that authority.'”

Godwin said, because the grant regulations insisted on state per diem, receipts were unnecessary for Smith to request from Cutright.

“You’re taking the bureaucratic side of it and you’re twisting things around, and you’re suppose to facilitating the commission, and you’re getting in the way of it,” he said to Smith.

However, according to Smith, who believed the reimbursement should be handled under county policy, without receipts of any travel expenses, Cutright cannot be reimbursed.

She noted the county has done nothing that’s been per diem in the past.

“The expense reimbursement didn’t have the county policy requirement for travel reimbursement. We apparently asked them to get (the receipts) to us, which is what we’ve always required, and the only thing that we got at the time was an email that said per diem is this amount of money per day,” she said. “Well, when I brought it to the commission, it was like, this is not how we pay. This is not the way we usually do it.”

Commission President Sam Nolte said, “It is county policy if it has something to do with the county and not associated with a grant. If we are doing something through a grant, we need to follow the grant rules.”

He noted he could see why Smith would initially follow county policy because that’s what’s been done in the past.

Smith said she did reach out to the state auditor’s office, which advised her the county can be more restrictive, but it cannot lessen the requirements.

“And in my case, being more restrictive would be us saying we want copies of the receipts,” she said.

Moving forward, Smith said the documents will be sent to the auditor’s officer for clarification, and “we will go from there.”

She added “obviously it’s a little too late to get a check this week, but we’ll have him a check next week provided that we can do that.”

“I don’t mean to be personally hostile toward you, and if it seems that way, I apologize,” Godwin said to Smith.

After the meeting, Nolte said, “I think a few things got figured out,” and he believed miscommunication escalated the contention.