The Jasper County Jail commissary could start making a little bit of money for the county for the first time since last May when the County Commissioners send the contract out for bid in the next few weeks.
The commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to terminate the nearly-seven-year-old contract with Keefe Commissary Network and seek new bids from vendors to operate the commissary, which provides toiletries, snacks and other items at a small cost to inmates, and indigent kits with basic toiletries to inmates with no money for free.
Jasper County Assistant Prosecutor Norman Rouse, counselor to the commissioners, said on Tuesday that the contract had not been re-bid since 2005 and had just been automatically renewed.
The county had been collecting a 10 percent commission fee on the operation of the commissary, but Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn announced in May 2011 that he had started selling items in the commissary at cost and was forgoing the fee.
According to Rouse and Bill Fleischaker, attorney representing Dunn in a lawsuit against the county over the operation of the Law Enforcement Sales Tax grant board, the fee brought in $800 a month for the county, of which about $300 a month went to the cost of the indigent kits.
Rouse said the first $50,000 of that fee, according to a new ruling from the Missouri Attorney General’s office issued in January, will go to the Sheriff’s special fund, a fund the sheriff has discretion to use in almost any way he wants.
Before the attorney general’s ruling, fees from serving legal documents and other services went into that special fund. The first $50,000 of that money is now being held in a separate account, Rouse said, until the special fund matter is resolved.
Jasper County Presiding Commissioner John Bartosh said he wasn’t interested in telling the Sheriff how to run the commissary.
“We’re just wanting to put it out for bid because it’s been six years since we’ve done it,” Bartosh said. “I don’t really care how they run it, we just need to put it out for bid.”
“I think its good practice to see who we need to be using,” added Eastern District Commissioner Jim Honey. “I think its good practice for us to not get comfortable with who we have. There may be someone better. I think its taxpayers money and we need to check and see if we’re doing it right.”
The contract with Keefe has a 90-day exit clause, meaning either party can terminate the contract with 90 days notice.
The commissioners voted on Tuesday to send a letter to Keefe starting that 90-day clock and then to seek bids for operating the commissary in the coming weeks before the 90 days expires.