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Monday, June 10, 2013 - 5:30am

Sheriff's Funeral Service Fee Under Scrutiny

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.