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County leaders call for special trust to oversee Sheriff's office in wake of audit

The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office and Jail (File/KOKH).

Oklahoma County leaders are calling for an independent group to oversee the Sheriff’s office following the second critical audit in less than a year of the embattled office. Commissioner Brian Maughan said a non-political trust should be appointed to oversee operations both at the County Jail and the Sheriff’s Office.

Maughan began his news conference calling the recent audit report which identified more than $3 million in missing equipment “unforgivable” and “reprehensible.” The audit found a number of vehicles and weapons were unaccounted for during the recent turnover audit completed by the state auditor’s office.

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The Sheriff’s Office told FOX 25 Monday morning the office was able to locate some of the items listed as missing on the auditor’s report over the weekend. However, the office did not provide a complete list of the found items, instead a written statement only said the office believe the audit contained inaccuracies.”

Maughan said the auditors had worked with the Sheriff’s office for eight weeks trying to located materials that should have already been accounted for. “That is a two-month period of time where they were working with the sheriff's staff trying to find these objects,” Maughan said, “After they [auditors] drew the line in the sand then all of the sudden there were people coming forward saying we found some of these items. They still haven't found some of the more outrageous items such as the missing vehicles and a lot of these weapons.”

Maughan, joined by County Clerk David Hooten, County Court Clerk Rick Warren, and Deputy Assessor Larry Stein said an operational trust would have oversight of what the sheriff’s office spends on big-ticket items.

Such a trust would have to be approved by county commissioners. District 3 Commission Ray Vaughn is out of town, but his office said they support a jail trust but think an operational trust might not be possible to implement.

The Sheriff’s Office told FOX 25 acting Sheriff P.D. Taylor, who is the former undersheriff for the agency and is running to be the elected sheriff, was not in the office Monday afternoon to comment on the trust or on the audit. Agency Spokesman Mark Opgrande released the following statement about Maughan’s proposal:

“It’s unfortunate that elected county officials have chosen to air their grievances with the past leadership of the sheriff’s office without bothering to contact or even engage in discussions on the current state of the sheriff’s office with our staff. Had Commissioner Maughn or any of the other elected officials chosen to speak with our staff about the audit we would have been able to properly express not only the weaknesses it exposed in our processes and the plans in place to correct the issues raised, but also our concerns with processes county wide, and what we believe are inaccuracies contained within the audit.

The audit was instrumental in pointing out shortcomings involved in our property management system. Since P.D. Taylor has taken over, the office has restructured our property management staff and implemented new policies and procedures. This is an ongoing process. One of the main issues the audit brought forth was that items were not being removed from inventory after disposal. The inventory list is in the process of being brought current and cleaned up for submission with our annual report to the clerk’s office.

We do not believe the solution presented by Commissioner Maughn to create an operational trust over the entire agency, which thereby removes the duties of the elected Sheriff, is based in law. We further believe these types of discussions would more appropriately be held with the participation of an elected sheriff. However, we remain a committed partner in moving Oklahoma County forward and we look forward to engaging in discussions that will result in the best outcome for the agency, the community, and the governing body of Oklahoma County.”

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