State audit on Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office released

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Results of a state audit on the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office were released Tuesday morning.

The audit was requested earlier this year by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater after allegations of financial mismanagement.

"It was just shocking that this sort of stuff had even happened in the first place," said Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan.

Maughan spent much of the day reading through the 38-page report.

"Particularly, I'm paying attention to those items that said it should've gone across the Board of County Commissioners. I'm wondering how it happened without that and what maybe controls can be put in place in order to keep that from happening again," Maughan said.

Some key findings from the report - Sheriff John Whetsel didn't pay a company that provided health care to inmates.

The report said "The sheriff chose not to pay the contract, even though funds were available at the time payment was due."

And, it said $900,000 was spent on the purchase of sheriff vehicles during a time when other obligations were not being met.

"You should pay your bills first and obviously the statute say the first obligation of the sheriff is to run the jail," said state auditor Gary Jones.

"It's a big operation, so keeping your finger on the pulse of that whole thing is a pretty difficult deal. But, probably some of his administrative staff have let him down on some areas," said Oklahoma county assessor Leonard Sullivan.

Prater told NewsChannel 4 Tuesday afternoon he did not receive an advance copy of the audit and had not yet had a chance to review it.

He said criminal charges are a possibility and, if there were constitutional violations, it's possible Whetsel could be removed from office.

Prater also tells us he will be checking with the attorney general to make sure there is no conflict of interest, since he serves as legal adviser for the sheriff's office.

Whetsel's spokesperson sent us this statement Tuesday:

"Sheriff John Whetsel and his staff have received a copy of the state auditors report today.

Please note the Sheriff 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.

The Sheriff will issue a response once he and his staff have the opportunity to meet and fully review the entire document." 

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