Mon., June 10, 2013 9:30am (EDT)

Sheriff's Funeral Service Fee Under Scrutiny
By Associated Press
Updated: 10 months ago

AUGUSTA, Ga.  —  
State officials say an unauthorized funeral escort fee the Richmond County Sheriff's Office funnels into an unaudited bank account may be illegal. The sheriff's office has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars derived from $25 fees charged to funeral homes when on-duty deputies escort funeral processions in the county. (Photo Courtesy of <a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/38372230@N00/4739621127/in/photolist-8dPNeD-4wR3w6-36nw57-eGB1WS-5ujY9J-dRJCDx-7714Zw-6QXcrY-3kNhxc-7Q1N8z-8U2ZP1-8JxCP1-8JuzfM-8JuAo4-cKRcBC-5R9S2Z-8ikiMR-63gTZH-2tANBf-4XfipR-bkx9sp-7U81fT-r5x8X-JVWGX-9KAWZB-8U2QvL-8TYL3i-8TYKc2-aMaSm-4Qtn3p-cmeSry-5msyZj-9WYJF-mCpaX-63H5PS-7n2RLJ-4C2jn-4C2he-7QTdwj-7S8bBJ-w3wP5-w3wjF-6DWQ4W-eqyEJ-e9EDk3-au8dqp-au8dh4-Vksvx-4QAbQT-4u4e6q-6DWMqq>Martin Prochnik via Flickr</a>.)
State officials say an unauthorized funeral escort fee the Richmond County Sheriff's Office funnels into an unaudited bank account may be illegal. The sheriff's office has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars derived from $25 fees charged to funeral homes when on-duty deputies escort funeral processions in the county. (Photo Courtesy of Martin Prochnik via Flickr.)
State officials say an unauthorized funeral escort fee the Richmond County Sheriff's Office funnels into an unaudited bank account may be illegal.

The sheriff's office has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars derived from $25 fees charged to funeral homes when on-duty deputies escort funeral processions in the county.

The money was deposited into an account used for everything from sponsoring golf and little league tournaments, to funding staff Christmas parties.

The fee — which has been in use since the late 1970s — was never approved by the county commission and isn't included in any ordinances.

The newly-elected sheriff says his office plans to stop taking checks from funeral homes and will establish a nonprofit for donations.