Battle to pay for inmate food re-emerges in Upshur County
Upshur County (Longview News-Journal) — If purchase orders for jail food are not issued, Upshur County Sheriff Anthony Betterton warned for a second time since December that he will have to move inmates from the county’s jail to a facility elsewhere — causing the county to lose money.
Betterton said Tuesday morning that Auditor Janice Tucker is refusing to issue purchase orders for all Sheriff’s Office operations, including jail food. Betterton said Tucker instructed him to sign a bill to pay for jail food; however, Betterton said he would not because that was not the proper procedure. He said Tucker must issue a purchase order, attach the bill to it, and send it through the Commissioners Court for approval.
“I anticipated there would be a problem when the auditor went to the district attorney last time,” Betterton said. Neither Tucker nor her boss, District Judge Lauren Parish, could immediately be reached for comment.
In a Nov. 28 letter to District Judge Lauren Parish, District Attorney Billy Byrd, County Judge Dean Fowler and the Commissioners Court, Tucker wrote that she would not issue purchase orders for vendors that annually exceed $50,000 in county food sales. At the time, it was determined that the county had not been in compliance with state standards for how jail food must be bid.
Following that, commissioners voted to bid out jail food; however, Betterton cautioned that he might have to shut down the county’s jail operations if Tucker would not pay for food until bids could be obtained. After a heated emergency meeting, commissioners instructed Betterton to continue buying food.
Then, on Dec. 31, commissioners accepted a two-month bid for food from U.S. Foods. County Judge Dean Fowler said that while the action was only for a two-month supply of food, when the court next seeks bids it intends to seek a year’s worth of food for the inmates.
Now, Betterton said Tucker is refusing to issue purchase orders for food. If he cannot obtain food, the sheriff said he will have to move inmates from the county’s jail to another jail.
“This is typical Upshur County politics,” Betterton said.
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