Report: Nearly $71,000 in taxpayer money misused by sheriff’s office
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - The Stone County Sheriff’s Office misused $71,000 in taxpayer money by spending money on guns, ammunition, a 55-inch television and Tiki torches, content partner KATV reported this week.
The Arkansas Legislative Audit completed its review of the sheriff’s office and presented information Thursday on the audit.
According to KATV, lawmakers on the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee questioned Sheriff Lance Bonds on the issue.
Lawmakers looked at bank accounts and selected disbursements from Jan. 2019 to June 4, 2020.
Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) asked Bonds directly about the money.
“How do you miss the extensive amount of purchases, how do you not catch your credit card, how do you not see this coming out of your budget, how do you miss this,” Sen. Garner asked Bonds.
“I wasn’t watching my budget. I just wasn’t watching. I had a deputy sheriff killed up there, I wasn’t into my job and I trusted my chief deputy too much,” Bonds told Sen. Garner.
Bonds said while he took responsibility for the issue, he said he called the Arkansas State Police to do an investigation when he discovered his chief deputy had misused taxpayer dollars, KATV reported.
The chief deputy resigned in March 2020.
In the audit, lawmakers found:
- $15,729 in unaccounted for spending for equipment and gun purchases, including $9,939 for guns, accessories and ammunition reloading equipment and $5,790 for shooting equipment, the 55-inch television, Oakley sunglasses, body armor, fencing materials, propane cooker, game cameras, small kitchen appliances and other items.
- $12,033 in purchases without a documented business purpose or proper authorization by the sheriff, including $4,189 for building materials, tools and wiring supplies; $3,776 for shooting equipment, Tiki torches, Apple watch, propane heaters, a laptop computer, gun scopes, range finders and an iPad.
- $8,640 in unallowable and authorized purchases, including $8,237 for gun accessories and night vision goggles bought in Feb. 2020. The county did not receive the items and a sheriff’s office employee reimbursed the county for the amount in June 2020, with the order being canceled.
The audit also discovered a problem with a bond refund paid to a released jail inmate in Jan. 2020.
“A $5,000 bond refund paid to a released jail inmate from the municipal bond account on the instruction of a Sheriff’s Office employee on Jan. 31, 2020, although the inmate was not owed the refund. Sheriff’s Office staff subsequently obtained documentation from the employee’s County email account of a vehicle purchased by both the employee and the released jail inmate six days after bond refund, with a vehicle owned by the Sheriff’s Office employee listed as trade-in on the vehicle purchased,” the audit noted. “The employee’s email account also contained documentation of other payments to the inmate from the employee’s personal bank accounts.”
Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) said the bond refund issue was disturbing.
“I anticipate there are some intense investigations that are going on surrounding the bond payment of $5,000 that was not a refund but just a payment to an inmate, that’s what was shocking,” Sen. Irvin told KATV.
Bonds told KATV he could not comment any further due to a criminal investigation by Arkansas State Police into the whole situation.
However, he did tell lawmakers Thursday that the former chief deputy wrote a $25,000 check to reimburse the county. But, state police have told the sheriff not to cash the check while the investigation is ongoing.
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