When it comes to the sheriff spending money without the required approval from civilian county supervisors, there used to be questions when the retroactive approvals were being asked for months after purchases were made.

“It’s just retro, retro, retro. I mean, we’re running this county backwards,” then-Supervisor Todd Spitzer said when one of the many retroactive requests came up for approval in 2015.

“The board is supposed to approve things proactively, not retroactively.  And yet it seems to be – it’s not the exception anymore. It’s becoming the rule.”

At the time, sheriff officials promised to do better.

“We’re doing everything we can to prevent and limit the number of retroactive contracts,” said the sheriff’s then-spokesman Jeff Hallock, who has since been promoted to assistant sheriff, the department’s second-in-command. 

Fast forward to now, and Sheriff Barnes continues to regularly seek and get retroactive approvals just about every month. So far this year, those retroactive sheriff purchases have topped $1 million.

But there’s no longer any public questioning of it from the supervisors who are elected to serve as a financial oversight over the sheriff.

The latest example came this week, when sheriff staff asked county supervisors to retroactively approve $47,000 in computer equipment that was purchased more than a year earlier without proper authorization.

“These invoice approvals are submitted for retroactive Board of Supervisors’ (Board) approval as the purchases were made without a contract being in place,” states the staff report from sheriff officials.

It was approved unanimously on Tuesday without any public questions from the five supervisors.

When Chairman Andrew Do asked his colleagues if they had any questions or comments, none said anything, before proceeding to cast their votes approving the backdated $47,000 in spending.

It was among the more than $1 million in retroactive sheriff spending supervisors have approved so far this year. None of it was questioned by the supervisors when the backdated approvals came up for votes.

Among the retroactive purchases are $365,000 for software support, $274,000 for maintaining drug test equipment, $489,000 for ID card printer equipment, and the $47,000 in computer equipment.

The supervisors’ largest campaign supporter is the deputy sheriffs’ union, which also is the largest campaign spender for Sheriff Barnes.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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