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Panel writes off inmate debts as uncollectible

PIERRE -- More than $20,000 of debts owed by former inmates to the state Department of Corrections were written off as uncollectible Tuesday by the state Board of Finance.

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Most of the money was owed by 22 men and women from 2003 in amounts from $51.76 to $2,410.96. Two others were from August 2011.

"It's two years from the date of delinquency," Jeff Hallem, a top member of the state attorney general's office, explained to the other board members.

The board routinely considers debt write-offs after unsuccessful efforts by state departments, state universities and outside collection agencies.

The board works under the office of Secretary of State Jason Gant. His staff will ask the state departments and universities to start using a new standard document for debt write-offs in the coming weeks, rather than submitting the requests in a variety of formats.

Gant's staff also will be asking that moving-allowance requests be submitted on a new standard form, too, with signatures required of the employee and an agent of the hiring department or university. The new form is designed to prevent the inadvertent public disclosure of an employee's Social Security number as happened in the recent past.

Gant, who didn't attend the meeting, is trying to get the board's meetings notices posted earlier than the minimum 24 hours required under state law.

The board typically meets on a Tuesday each month and Gant is asking that applications for moving allowances and debt write-offs be submitted to his office no later than the Thursday before the meeting.

The board members, who represent a cross-section of state constitutional offices, reviewed the new forms and policy Tuesday and didn't raise any objections.