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Lee County Jail Project Raises Red Flags

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The head of the Lee County Board does not agree with one of the findings of an audit.

In the report, the state auditor says the county did not follow proper bid procedures during the expansion of the Lee County Jail.  The county added beds to the facility to account for a spike in female inmates.

Specifically, the audit says the county did not hold a public hearing and did not seek competitive bids, even though the project cost more than $130,000.  The price tag exceed $400,000.

Instead, the county chose to work with the contractors who handled a previous expansion of the jail.

Chairman Ernie Schiller says the county made that decision based on the advice of the firm hired to oversee the project.

"I think our management agency did the best to try to be sure that there is contingency, or (rather) continuity, between the new, existing structure and the expanded structure.”

The official county response to the audit was that it would make sure the procedure was followed in the future, which the state auditor accepted.

Other issues raised include conflicts of interest over contracts with relatives of county employees and the use of grant money on food and refreshments.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.