Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor announced during a news conference in downtown Pittsburgh Friday afternoon that the state is out more than $500,000.
KYM GABLE: Out more than $500,000, that's what state Auditor General Timothy DeFoor announced during a news conference in downtown Pittsburgh this afternoon. He said the money was supposed to come from the Washington County Clerk of Courts office, but that never happened. Amy Wadas is live with what she's learned now. Amy.
AMY WADAS: Well, Kym, the auditor general says the taxpayers are the ones who got shortchanged here. He stressed, this can't happen again saying-- the judges are at fault.
TIMOTHY DEFOOR: These programs must operate within the law.
AMY WADAS: Something that Auditor General Timothy DeFoor says didn't happen in Washington County's alternative sentencing program between 2016 and 2019. An honor for the Clerk of Courts office found that some defendants avoided paying fines, costs, fees, and surcharges by agreeing to perform community service, or receiving credit for time served.
TIMOTHY DEFOOR: We've identified more than 3,400 cases of adjustments of this type during our 4-year audit period. This represents more than $1.5 million in fines and fees that were never collected.
AMY WADAS: Of that total, DeFoor says more than $513,000 should have been paid to the state.
TIMOTHY DEFOOR: This is significant because those funds paid by defendant support victim services, such as domestic violence programs, and training for law enforcement statewide.
AMY WADAS: DeFoor says the current Clerk of Courts isn't at fault. It's the judges who made the adjustment without following proper procedures, something that needs to happen before fines can be written off.
TIMOTHY DEFOOR: There is also a process in which that is to take place, a hearing to determine somebody's eligibility in that program. This take place in front of a judge. That process never took place. Judges are waiving penalties often for defendants who work full time or have other means of paying for their fees.
AMY WADAS: Meantime, the auditor general is asking for change so this doesn't happen again.
TIMOTHY DEFOOR: I ought to recommend the county review its alternative sentencing program to ensure it's being operated in compliance with the law.
AMY WADAS: We reached out to President Judge John DiSalle's office in Washington County. They had no comment and referred us to the administrative office of the Pennsylvania courts in Harrisburg. We are still waiting to hear back from them. Reporting live tonight, Amy Wadas, KDKA News.