GREENUP The former Greenup County Sheriff is on the hook for nearly $39,000 in unaccounted or unnecessary expenditures, according to a recently released audit by the Commonwealth's Auditor of Public Accounts.
While all sheriff's offices in Kentucky undergo audits, the latest one is another installment regarding the issues former Sheriff Keith Cooper had with the commonwealth's top auditor, Mike Harmon. In 2018, The Daily Independent reported Harmon's office had forwarded concerns about how Cooper handled department money to the Attorney General's Office for review.
The latest findings were turned over to Greenup County Attorney Mike Wilson, per the auditor's office. Wilson declined to comment, citing an ongoing review. An auditor’s office spokesman said the findings are out of the ordinary.
“Most sheriffs properly account for the funds in their fee and forfeiture accounts, so yes, this is an exception to most sheriffs we audit,” the spokesman wrote via email.
The report states that “disallowed disbursements” — unnecessary or undocumented expenditures of department money — must be paid back by the former sheriff out of his own pocket. The moneys detailed in the report are for what the auditor's office says Cooper owes.
In the audit released May 14, the office stated $32,994 disallowed disbursements were taken out of the department's asset forfeiture fund — moneys seized from crimes as a result of a court order — during the 2014, 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.
The report also states during the same time frame, $5,923 worth of charges to the fee accounts — money collected from taxes and fees such as courthouse security, prisoner transportation and concealed carry permits — were also classified as “disallowed disbursements.”
For the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, the report states Cooper made $24,000 in cash withdrawals from the forfeiture account without keeping necessary documentation. The auditor's report also noted $5,378 of forfeited moneys were not placed in the account in 2014. An additional $3,000 was paid to a car dealership without proper documentation in 2014 and $270 was spent in 2016 on bulletproof vests without documentation, according to the report.
In 2014, the report states $4,225 was spent from the fee account on online purchases and hotel stays without proper documentation. For 2015 and 2016, the department spent $951 on a satellite radio subscription, the report stated. That money too came out of the fee account, according to the auditor.
Within the audit report, the former sheriff had an opportunity to comment regarding the finding. The report shows Cooper did not provide a response to the auditors.
Auditors recommended the former sheriff pay back the nearly $6,000 out of the fee account to the fiscal court. At the end of the year, excess money in a department's possession needs to be returned to the fiscal court, per the law.
Auditors recommended the nearly $33,000 be returned to the sheriff's department itself, because the forfeiture money is controlled by the department for use on certain items necessary for law enforcement, per the report.
The auditor spokesman clarified that the findings and conclusions in the report are only for the Cooper administration — actions taken by previous or the current sheriff are not included in the report. The spokesman said the Greenup County Sheriff's Office is under a normal auditing regime, like any other office in the commonwealth.
Current Sheriff Matt Smith, elected in 2018, is serving his second year as Greenup County's top cop. He said prior to taking office, he received a “crash course” in how to keep books at the sheriff's office from the Kentucky Sheriff's Association.
“I took their recommendations, as well as the recommendations from the state auditors and I have been keeping receipts and documentation required by law,” Smith said. “I'm undergoing my first audit this year, so if there's any issues, we'll follow those recommendations as well.”
A number associated with the former sheriff was called and a voicemail was left asking for comment. The call was not returned.
(606) 326-2653 |