As part of our continuing series of interviews with UPExchange users, our Roving Reporter traveled to Valparaiso, Indiana, to interview Sergeant Bud Gootee of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Gootee became the Department’s business manager in 2007, after serving as a division commander in the Department’s police services.
His responsibility for unclaimed property reporting, an offshoot of his responsibilities as an inmate trust fund officer, has become a separate discipline, one Sgt. Gootee says would overwhelm the inmate trust fund officer with all that’s now required:
RR: I have to admit to being intrigued because I didn’t think that a sheriff’s office would be managing unclaimed property, so I’m about to learn something. What, precisely, is the nature of the unclaimed property you typically handle?
Sgt. Gootee: Well, we house inmates here. And the money we hold for them becomes abandoned by the same schedule as all other monies specific to those states to which we have to report. So it isn’t unlikely that we would have people who leave upwards of more than even $100 sometimes for convenience or because they went on to some other facility and forgot.
RR: What would be convenient about leaving money behind?
Sgt: Gootee: Let’s say the amount is $20. The typical inmate doesn’t have a checking account or a savings account. If we write him a check for $20, it’s going to cost him that much to cash it at a check-cashing place. So, the check never gets cashed, and it becomes abandoned property. Sometimes, they just plain leave it behind. Easy come, easy go, I guess.
RR: Of all the things that I might have guessed you were going to say, I never would have guessed that.
Sgt. Gootee: Well I’ll tell you, I’ve been on the job now 39 years, 10 of them working with inmates’ assets. I’d never have guessed it, either; but now it’s a necessary evil of our business here.
RR: Given that, could you ballpark how many records you handle in a given year?
Sgt. Gootee: About 3,000. We book about 7,000 to 8,000 prisoners a year. Not all of them have money when they come in, and not everyone who comes in with money leaves it behind. But we have to track it all. I use a commissary program called Canteen Manager. That’s how I know where all the money is.
RR: Is there any reason to need money while they’re with you?
Sgt. Gootee: The first thing we do when they come in is put their money in their individual funds. If they stay for any time, they can buy candy bars and pop and things like that that comes from a canteen.
RR: And prior to using UPExchange, were you using any other program or software?
Sgt. Gootee: No. I wrote a Crystal Report that married our records management system to pull in addresses of the inmates – and Canteen Manager to pull in their money – to get a single report. But that’s a line-by-line process and very time-consuming. The folks at Canteen Manager promise me they’re going to add addresses to their database. That’ll help a lot because then all I’ll have to do is compare it to what I already have in UPExchange.
RR: How did you find out about UPExchange?
Sgt. Gootee: I did a Google search to see if there was anybody out there who managed these kinds of things; and that’s the first hit I got, so I took off from there. Then I saw the UPExchange link on the NAUPA website and figured it must be good.
RR: Are you the only person in the department who works with UPExchange?
Sgt. Gootee: Yes.
RR: Were you able you able to figure out the program, either by intuition or with the tutorials that are available with the product? Did you require extra training or support? How did that go?
Sgt. Gootee: I used all the various resources that are available online, and I certainly talked to Danielle [Herring, of ETM] quite a bit my first couple of times out. I was already familiar with the NAUPA format. So, I was able to literally dump everything into an Excel spreadsheet, then copy and paste into UPExchange fields. It’s really easy for me.
RR: What does someone considering an unclaimed property system need to know about UPExchange?
Sgt. Gootee: They need to know they’ve got to do this. This is one of the best management tools I’ve ever seen. I don’t see anybody else coming up with anything that’s better at this point. The other good part is – and I have to give them a ringing endorsement for this – I have never had anybody say no when I had a question. You run into things and you think, “You know I’m not sure if I should do this.” Danielle or one of her cohorts always seems to know right away. That’s a big deal to me. I’m sure my stuff is small compared to the big companies they work with. But still I get treated as if I were a big company. And you can’t ask for better service.
RR: And I couldn’t ask for a better conversation. Thank you for the education.
Sgt. Gootee: You’re very welcome, and I’m glad I was able to help.