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Sheriff confirms investigation into missing money

Sheriff Dan Bullock confirmed Thursday a report on his department’s investigation into “nearly $10,000” reportedly missing from a county office has been turned over to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

According to the sheriff, about five to six weeks ago County Collector Pamela Williams approached him requesting that his department investigate the apparent disappearance of money from her office. Bullock said there was an intensive investigation that was completed late last week and he presented the report to Prosecuting Attorney Wendy Wexler Horn.

At this point, Bullock said, he is waiting to hear back from the prosecutor to determine if there is anything further she wants done by his office in regard to this case. Horn is away from the office this week and could not be reached for comment.

“We have recovered the money,” Bullock said, without explaining how the money had been returned.

At this point there have been no arrests made in connection with the case, according to the sheriff, and the determination of what, if any, charges to be filed will be made by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Bullock said the investigation conducted by his department involved money from 2003 and was requested by Williams. He said he does not know any details about missing funds County Auditor Judy Ellis reported to the County Commission last week.

“Judy was talking about 2002,” the sheriff said, “while our investigation involved money missing in 2003.”

While he did not say the two matters are unrelated, Bullock also indicated he could not say his department’s investigation involves what Ellis was talking about.

Ellis also confirmed Thursday the County Commission has authorized the use of an independent firm from St. Louis to conduct an audit of all county offices “that operate with cash.” The commission’s initial authorization is for 100 hours of service by Charles Buchanan, but Ellis said it is not known if that will be sufficient to get the job done.

Buchanan’s firm has conducted the county’s annual independent audit for the past three or four years, Ellis said. It was during the latest annual audit that turned up possible missing funds from an office in the courthouse and prompted her to go to the County Commission on July 29.

The county auditor declined to identify which office from which it appeared funds were missing nor the amount of money. “We are still investigating.” Ellis said she does not know how long the special audit will take.

Ellis said she has not seen the report the Sheriff’s Department submitted to the prosecuting attorney and she does not want to impede that department’s investigation. “That was a criminal investigation and ours is a financial investigation.”

The auditor said last week she believes it is important that the public know what is going on, but added it is extremely important that the investigation be handled in a proper manner.

“I want to do what is right,” Ellis said. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this before.”

Buchanan was with Ellis when she first appeared at the July 29 commission meeting to present her findings.

The commission voted to go into executive session, expressing concern that there would be discussion of specific personnel while talking about the report. Ellis told the commissioners it could be discussed without using names, but the commissioners still chose to close the meeting at that point.

Members of the commission said last week that while there were some irregularities discovered in the annual independent audit of county funds, they were told there could be several explanations for it and they are waiting for conclusive information.

They said the Sheriff’s Department is also involved and has been for a couple of weeks, but commissioners said July 29 was the first they had heard of the problem.

Commissioner Bill Bradley said the problem should have been brought to the presiding commissioner’s attention as soon as it was known or suspected.

“We are going to have the independent auditor audit ever office in the county courthouse that deals with money,” said Presiding Commissioner Jim Henson last week. “We do have reason to believe we need to do that, but we don’t know at this time if anyone has stolen anything. We are going to get to the bottom of this.”

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