Some allegations substantiated, auditor says

Tuesday, June 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- At least five allegations against the financially troubled Muskogee County Sheriff's Office have been substantiated by evidence turned up during an investigation, a manager with the state Auditor and Inspector's Office says.

Dana Webb, who is overseeing the audit, said her team has thoroughly investigated nearly 15 allegations so far. Auditors have been reviewing the sheriff's records since June 6,looking at allegations of financial mismanagement and illegal hiring practices.

The list of allegations the state office will examine has grown from two to about 20. Webb would not provide specifics on the allegations she said were proven, except for the initial question about Sheriff Cliff Sinyard's hiring employees without notifying the County Clerk's Office.

In addition, the auditors found some evidence that Sinyard may have paid prior-year expenditures with current-year monies. "They cannot do that," Webb said.

She said the investigation will conclude sometime in July, several weeks later than originally planned.

Sinyard was to meet Tuesday with the Muskogee County Excise Board to discuss ways to get him through the fiscal year ending June 30. Webb said Sinyard has about $23,000 in his accounts and needs between $90,000 and $100,000 to make payroll. Sinyard said the county will have to supplement his budget by about $50,000 to make it through the fiscal year.

Muskogee County officials have committed more than $100,000 in carryover money toward Sinyard's aid. The sheriff has denied any wrongdoing in his financial dealings and believes the probe is politically motivated.

Webb's comments about the reportedly confirmed allegations have the sheriff concerned. Sinyard said he had not been told about the audit's results.

"That's kind of scary," he said. "I've not been made aware of anything substantiated."

Webb said Sinyard has been in constant communication with auditors.

"He really wants to know what's going on," she said. "He's involved with this daily, wanting to know what we've found."

Sinyard went public with his financial problems earlier this year. His office receives about $500,000 in county general fund money but needs another $1 million or so from revenue sources such as housing federal or state prisoners. Those noncounty funding sources have been slowly drying up, he has argued.

"It's a broken system," Sinyard has said repeatedly.

Other allegations being investigated by the state auditor's office include questions of whether inmate trust-fund money was used to pay Sheriff's Office phone bills. The trust fund is made up of money taken from inmates once they are checked into the jail.

Sinyard admitted using current money to pay prior-year bills.