When assets are seized during federal investigations, the proceeds can be shared with law enforcement agencies who participate with federal agencies during the process. This is called Equitable Sharing, and both the Justice Departments and Treasury Departments can do it. The funds received have rules that govern how they are spent.
Therefore it was surprising that a Power Point presentation created by the Justice Department in 2015 suggested a way to circumvent those rules; typically they don’t allow funds to be spent on salaries or raises but this presentation gave a clear way for an agency to get around that restriction. “The presentation advises that instead of using the seized funds money to fund raises, agencies can use it to cover routine costs — such as maintaining vehicle fleets — and then redirect money already budgeted for maintenance into salaries. The PowerPoint says redirecting money in that manner is acceptable “so long as your overall budget does not decrease.”
It appears the Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, took that suggestion to heart. The “AP raised questions about significant pay raises for several of Herring’s employees at a time when state workers’ pay was stagnant elsewhere. Some staff attorneys’ salaries rose as much as $15,000 in a year — one had a 30-percent increase.” This investigation revealed the existence of the Power Point presentation, and is the reason 64 attorney received a raise in their pay floor, with the median raise of $7,000.
“Virginia received more than $100 million in asset forfeiture money under a joint state-federal settlement with Abbott Laboratories for an anti-seizure drug’s off-label marketing. Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said raises were made possible in part by using some of the funds to pay allowable expenses involving the agency’s rent, vehicle maintenance and operational costs.
The Abbott settlement money was administered by the Treasury Department, but Kelly cited the PowerPoint as justification for using the funds to make raises possible. He said the PowerPoint was part of 2015 training for accountants in the state attorney general’s office.”
The AP noticed the pay raises in the Office of Attorney General and requested documents about the aberration; last year, the rest of the Commonwealth canceled pay raises that were scheduled for state employees when budget problems got difficult.
It is unfathomable that a state agency, under the guidance and direction of a federal agency, could move money around in a ploy to give themselves pay increases. If one state agency, as part of a training exercise for accountants, could conclude that this action was both just and allowable, how many other agency partners in the Equitable Sharing program have done this?