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Audit reveals financial concerns at Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office

An investigative audit has raised questions about financial issues at Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. (KOKH/FILE)

An investigative audit into the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff John Whetsel has found questionable finance practices.

The audit was requested in March following a lawsuit filed against Oklahoma County over unpaid bills to the county jail’s medical provider.

RELATED: County official accuses sheriff of mismanaging jail funds after lawsuit

The audit, requested by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, found the sheriff’s office intentionally stopped paying the medical provider. Auditors also found that at the time the multi-million-dollar lawsuit was filed against Oklahoma County, the sheriff’s office had the funds available to pay the outstanding balance.

County officials have told FOX 25 in the past lawsuit settlements against the jail have been paid by taxpayers through increased property taxes.

RELATED: Oklahoma County DA requests audit of Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office

The findings of the audit will be presented to Prater’s office. While the district attorney’s office does serve as the legal counsel for the sheriff’s office it is not immediately known what action the district attorney will take or if the audit’s findings will go to a multi-county grand jury.

The audit also analyzed the use of county vehicles and donations by the Sheriff’s Office reserve deputies. In the audit request Prater asked State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones to determine if any relationship existed between the “Special or Reserve Deputy position and campaign contributions made by the individual to the Sheriff’s campaign fund.”

FOX 25 has learned the audit did find some of the special or reserve deputies had made campaign donations and significant contributions, both monetary and in-kind, to the Sheriff’s office. However, the audit did not determine if any laws were broken.

The audit also shows that the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office accepted a donation of Sheriff Whetsel's personal vehicle after a $28,000 payment was made to his spouses trust.

The sheriff's office also spent approximately $900,000 on sheriff vehicles at a time when other obligations of the sheriff's office were not being met.

The audit shows that the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Training Facility was used by local car clubs without sheriff's office supervision, which is against the lease agreement.

FOX 25 has learned Sheriff Whetsel has retained the legal services of former U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats. Coats told FOX 25 he could not comment on any meetings the sheriff had with auditors to discuss the findings of the audit, but once the document was released there would be a response.

When contacted by FOX 25 about the audit the Sheriff’s office denied any briefing took place and said it would have a statement following the document’s official release.

District 2 Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said the audit findings raise "real concerns about how the taxpayers' money has been spent".

"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," Maughan said.


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