OKLAHOMA CITY — A new state audit released Tuesday found that the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office did not pay contracts for inmate health care services even though money was available at the time payment was due.
The audit released Tuesday by State Auditor Gary Jones also found that about $900,000 was spent on vehicles for the sheriff’s office even though other financial obligations had not been met. The audit was conducted at the request of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who said in March that the investigation “could result in criminal charges being filed.”
The audit also determined that the sheriff’s office accepted a donation of Sheriff John Whetsel’s personal vehicle after a $28,000 payment was made to a trust in Whetsel’s wife’s name. The vehicle donation had not been approved by the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners, according to the audit.
Whetsel, who is seeking his sixth term in office, previously denied any wrongdoing, saying the audit request was a politically motivated move during an election year. Sheriff’s office spokesman Mark Opgrande said Tuesday that Whetsel is out of state at a conference and did not have an immediate comment on the audit.
“The sheriff will issue a response once he and his staff have the opportunity to meet and fully review the entire document,” Opgrande said.
The audit also found that the sheriff’s office allowed local car clubs to use the law enforcement training facility for driving activities, which was not allowed under the lease approved by county commissioners.
“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,” said Brian Maughan, District 2 county commissioner. “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.”
The audit’s release comes a day after the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced it had completed its probe of allegations of misconduct at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office over a volunteer deputy’s fatal shooting of an unarmed man in 2015. OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said Monday that the report on the Tulsa sheriff’s office has been submitted to prosecutors to consider whether criminal charges should be filed.
Former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz pleaded no contest in July to one misdemeanor count of failing to release key information about how former Deputy Robert Bates was trained. Bates is now serving a four-year prison sentence after he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in May.