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Minnesota Sheriff Profited from Jail Breakfast Scam

Minnesota Sheriff Profited from Jail Breakfast Scam

In October 2007, Hubbard County, Minnesota officials announced they had reached a settlement with Sheriff Gary Mills. For eight years, Mills had practiced an archaic tradition of providing breakfast for the county jail’s prisoners and then having the county reimburse him. The practice stemmed from times when sheriffs lived at the jails and their wives did the cooking.

The problem was that Mills was spending between $0.50 and $1.00 a meal but billing the county $2.00 per meal. When the county commissioners decided to cut Mills off from this lucrative but arcane income supplement, they voted to give him a monthly $1,000 stipend to replace the lost income for as long as he was sheriff.

When new commissioners came into office in January 2007, however, they did away with the stipend. Mills then sued the county for improperly reducing his income. The commissioners investigated the claim and discovered that since the 1970s, state law had prohibited counties from overpaying sheriffs for providing jail meals.

Therefore, the county filed a counterclaim for all of the profits that Mills had taken in for providing breakfasts, plus his stipend payments. The counterclaim also noted that it was a misdemeanor offense for a county official, such as the sheriff, to profit from a county contract.

An undisclosed settlement ensued. Without the stipend or overpayments, Mills receives a salary of $73,721 – about average for sheriffs in north-central Minnesota. The county now has the company that provides the jail’s lunch and dinner meals also provide breakfast.

Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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