OKLAHOMA CITY — A former prisoner claims the sheriff misused inmate labor for his re-election campaign.
“I don’t support Sheriff Whetsel so I don’t feel I should have had to help him campaign,” a former inmate said, who did not want to be identified.
He said while he was serving time he helped make the signs.
“I cut some rebar that was used for sheriff’s campaign signs,” he said.
He said cell phone pictures sent to News Channel 4 were snapped behind jail walls in the maintenance shop.
The trustee said it’s proof inmates worked on parts for the signs; once in June and another time in July.
However the pictures did not show anything that said Whetsel’s name.
Inmates are allowed to clean buildings, pick up trash along the freeway and other tasks that benefits Uncle Sam, not anyone else.
Criminal Defense Attorney Roger Creecy said, “As long as it is for a governmental entity they’re not allowed to work on private property. Outside of that it becomes a crime and it’s a felony.”
The inmate said he didn’t see any actual signs with Whetsel’s name on it inside the jail but believes it was the same rebar he cut and spray painted.
Sheriff Whetsel said these claims are unverified and the inmate is mistaken.
Sheriff Whetsel declined to comment but shared a letter his office sent to the District Attorney’s Office and OSBI.
The sheriff confirms work was done on the signs in the detention center but said it’s not what the inmates say happened.
“A longtime loyal employee picked up rebar purchased by my campaign and cut it at the detention center with a saw he owned personally but allowed the jail to use. On the first occasion no one other than that employee handled the rebar. The second time, an employee indicates that a trustee voluntarily painted tips and is unsure about any trustee cutting rebar,” Whetsel said.
Also in the letter, Sheriff Whetsel takes full responsibility and said he did replace the old spray painted that was worth less than $20.
So is this a case of an officer of the law using inmate labor for personal gain or just punches thrown in a political fight in the heart of campaign season? You decide.