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Out Here: A fashion-plate sheriff?

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 11:43 a.m. CDT

A couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Lucky Brand jeans. 

Then my co-worker Matt Mencarini discovered a charge on the Ogle County Sheriff's Department's credit card bill for $160 worth in Lucky Brand jeans from an outlet store in Aurora – paid for with public funds.

The charge was listed under Sheriff Michael Harn's name; he acknowledged buying them. He told Mencarini that he usually wears jeans and a polo shirt to work – his attempt, he said, to look like the working man.

The sheriff said he bought three or four pairs. He must have gotten a good deal. Lucky Brand jeans can cost more than $100 a pair, but are available for about $30 to $40 at discount stores.

I went across the street from the newspaper office to Kohl's and looked at Levi's prices. They cost anywhere from about $30 to $60 a pair.

Harn defends using public funds to buy the Lucky Brand jeans, saying he wears them to work and nowhere else.

Sometimes people get allowances to buy clothes for their jobs, usually uniforms, suits and the like – things you wouldn't normally wear otherwise. 

Of course, just about every American owns a pair of jeans, if not several. This is a staple in our uniform outside of work. In fact, when companies have casual days, jeans are a popular choice. 

I hadn't heard of cases before in which employees get money from their employers to buy jeans. But it happens. 

In Columbia, Mo., for instance, city employees who must wear dark blue jeans on the job are eligible to receive $336 each year to buy them. But the key here is that they are required to wear those jeans.

As an elected official with an $87,000 salary, Harn has no dress code. He can wear whatever he wants. The question: Do taxpayers have to fund his choices?

David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.

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