State auditors begin looking into sheriff's records

Wednesday, June 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- The State Auditor and Inspector's office has begun an onsite investigation of allegations of financial mismanagement at the Muskogee County Sheriff's department.

Employees on Tuesday started looking at whether Sheriff Cliff Sinyard hired employees without informing the County Clerk's Office and constantly overdrew his monthly budget.

Sinyard spent his $500,000 annual county appropriation early in the year and then said the additional $1 million he needs to operate is not adequately being earned from compensation for keeping city, state and federal prisons in the Muskogee County Jail.

His critics point to an increase of staff over the previous administration. The office has about 80 employees, 30 more than his predecessor.

The State Auditor and Inspector's Office became involved because of allegations that Sinyard's office hired six more employees without getting them bonded and signed up in the clerk's office. State Inspector Clifton Scott called this latest charge a huge "liability" mistake if true.

"You get somebody carrying a gun and billy club. . . . What a risk to the county with six employees they don't even know about."

Scott's office will release a report about the Sinyard audit shortly after the three-week investigation is complete.

Sinyard has called the state audit a result of "good ol' Dixie politics" in an election year and added he has done nothing malicious financially. Any mistakes made by his office were honest ones, Sinyard said.

"I can look myself in the mirror and say I have nothing to apologize for," he said. "If I'm a crook, throw the book at me, .. . but I'm here to tell you I'm not."

Sinyard said the high number of employees he has stems from federal mandates, and from reports that deputies in the previous administration had worked too much overtime without compensation.

Sinyard, a Republican, said a Democrat vying for his job called the state auditor's office about the sheriff's financial problems.

Scott said he received a call from David Meeks but denied that local politics motivated his audit.

"We're doing it because it needs to be done," Scott said.