County will absorb $20,000 spent by former state's attorney

January 24, 1995|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Kerry O'Rourke contributed to this article.

Carroll commissioners heeded the advice of county budget officials when they decided to absorb the nearly $20,000 spent almost three years ago by the former state's attorney to establish a child abuse and sexual assault unit.

In closing the $19,400 account last week, the commissioners ended what had become a political battle

between State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes and the five-term incumbent he defeated in the election, Thomas E. Hickman.

The money, requested in July 1992, was to be paid back through the use of fund-raisers. Aside from a $275 payment more than a year ago, Mr. Hickman made no other payments on the account.

The controversial loan -- no interest was charged and expenses incurred by the state's attorney's office were paid directly by the county comptroller's office -- was disclosed in October when budget officials began to worry about Mr. Hickman's failure to make more payments.

The county's outside auditors began questioning the wisdom of carrying the account without any repayment. In response to a series of county dunning letters, Mr. Hickman promised to begin fund-raising activities, then told budget officials that he was negotiating with a "targeted defendant" who, as part of the resolution of a criminal case, could pay off the debt.

Earlier this month, the new state's attorney and his administrative deputy used the loan as an example of what they called Mr. Hickman's poor fiscal management of the prosecutor's office.

Marcie S. Wogan, the deputy, mentioned the loan when she announced that Mr. Barnes had requested an audit of the office's finances. She made pleas through local media for donations so the account could be closed.

At a budget meeting Thursday, county Budget Director Steven D. Powell told the commissioners "we should write off that debt." Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard Yates agreed; Commissioner Benjamin Brown was not at the meeting.

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