After several days of silence, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel is responding to a scathing audit released earlier this week.
In the statement sent late Friday afternoon, Whetsel said they released more than the DA and State Auditor asked for because they “had nothing to hide”. Whetsel was in San Diego serving as a past president for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The audit showed a list of potential broken laws and creative accounting, including choosing to avoid paying down millions in debt. The audit also pointed out nearly $900,000 had been spent on new vehicles while the office still had debts.
Sheriff Whetsel apologized for errors saying simply "they were just that, errors”. He also said everything he did was for the good of the county and that he takes full responsibility moving forward.
But he also said there are no allegations or findings that money had been misappropriated or that he benefited in any way, a statement the audit calls into question.
According to the audit, the sheriff's office didn't disclose certain funds in parts of last year's budget. There are also allegations of improper donations, one of which appears to have directly benefited his wife's trust. The audit uncovered a check for $28,000 was written by a local dentist to the trust fund just before the sheriff donated personal vehicle to the department.
The audit came just weeks before the election and may prove to be an October surprise for Whetsel, but the state auditor said politics had nothing to do with it.
“The timing worked out this way. I'll tell you what we told our people. The report will be ready when the report's ready,” State Auditor Gary Jones said Tuesday.
Whetsel’s opponent, Rep. Mike Christian (R-Oklahoma City) called the response “absurd”. In an emailed statement Christian said, “While we’re happy Mr. Whetsel decided to finally make a statement about the findings in the criminal investigative audit which was released at the beginning of the week, his response is yet another example of his lack of respect for the laws of our state, rules set forth by our county elected officials, and most importantly shows no respect to the residents of Oklahoma County.”
District Attorney David Prater, who asked for the audit to be done, was out of town but Assistant DA Scott Roland said Friday afternoon it was too early to tell if any criminal charges will be filed.