FORT EDWARD -- The Washington County Sheriff’s Office was given greater control over drug forfeiture money on Friday, a move that local police hope will help drug-related investigations.
The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve Sheriff Jim Murphy’s proposed forfeiture money policy.
The board also approved transferring $97,000 of cash collected from drug busts from the county’s general operating budget to the Sheriff’s Office budget.
Murphy said after the meeting that newfound autonomy allows police access to funds needed for an investigation or supply purchases.
“If we have an opportunity to buy surplus ammo at a low cost, this allows us to do it immediately,” Murphy said. “If we waited a couple months, then the price may have changed.”
Friday marks the first time Washington County’s Sheriff Office will have relative control over forfeiture money, which can come to more than $100,000 a year.
The new policy allows the sheriff, with the approval of the country Treasurer’s Office, to spend up to $50,000 without Board of Supervisors oversight.
In the past, the sheriff had to request the release of funding from the county board, and requests could take months to weave through the legislative process.
Warren County Sheriff Bud York has complete control over the use of drug forfeiture money.
The Washington County policy gives Murphy less control than York. Each use of the money will require the signature of country Treasurer Al Nolette. Expenditures will be reported to county supervisors after the fact.
But some uses of the cash won’t be made specific in the public reports, Nolette said earlier this week.
Murphy said some of the cash would be used to buy drugs during stings. The money could also be used to buy nondescript vehicles for drug investigations.
“If we use it for cash for drug buys, we certainly don’t want to publicize that,” Murphy said.
The cash could also be used to cover overtime costs for investigators working on drug investigations, officials said.
Some members of the county board’s Finance Committee earlier this week questioned the loss of board oversight.
Washington County officials have repeatedly referenced the $2 million in gold bars discovered recently in Warren County, wondering what Washington County’s cut, as a member of the drug task force, is going to be.