Tuesday morning, officials released results from an investigative audit into the Oklahoma County Sheriff and his administrative staff over alleged mismanagement of funds.
Back in March, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater hand-delivered the request of the audit to Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones.
The report, released by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector on Tuesday, listed key findings from the investigative audit:
Read the complete report here:
In the DA's request for an audit, some of the accusations included whether Sheriff John Whetsel and his administrative staff violated Oklahoma law. There were seven items in total, including whether Whetsel and his staff created a debt by entering into contracts with vendors or service providers, and then willfully effusing to pay those contracts with available appropriations or special revenue funds.
“They had the money to pay the bill and they chose not to,” State auditor Gary Jones said just after the release of the audit. “It was a conscious decision not to pay those,” he added.
Another question was whether the Sheriff and his staff provided false or misleading information to the Oklahoma County District Court in their request to set per diem rates for county inmates and if they expended all sources of funding in a lawful manner.
The DA also asked the auditor to determine whether the sheriff and or his staff "paid outstanding debt or contract balances for a specific fiscal year with subsequent fiscal year funds"
Among the findings were three improper donations made directly to the sheriff’s office, a violation of state statute according to the audit. One of those donations included a personal car donated by Whetsel after a $28,000 check was written to his wife’s trust.
“The statutes say that they cannot directly accept a donation. we've actually written them up on this before,” Jones said.
District Two Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan issued the following statement,
“There are a number of findings in this report that raise real concerns about how the taxpayers’ money has been spent – and in some cases apparently misspent – under Sheriff Whetsel’s administration. We were aware for some time that his failure to pay obligations to the jail medical provider had placed the county in financial peril. There are other findings within the report which also match previous concerns I have had over the operation of the Sheriff’s Office, in particular the use of the training facility by outside car clubs.
I am grateful to State Auditor Gary Jones and his staff for the thorough and comprehensive job they did in investigating a number of issues. I cannot speak for District Attorney David Prater and what course he will now pursue in response to the audit, but I have confidence that he will proceed in the best interests of the taxpayers.
Among other money-related matters, the DA asked the auditor to find out "whether there is any relationship between individuals granted a Special or Reserve Deputy position and campaign contributions made by the individual to the Sheriff's campaign fund."
The Sheriff's office has yet to release the statement, as Sheriff John Whetsel is currently attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference where he serves as a past president and is also representing the National Sheriffs' Association at highway safety activities.
A spokesperson for OCSO said the sheriff was aware of the audit and “most of it we already knew about.” Whetsel is expected to hold a press conference to comment on the audit at the end of this week.