County Commission: Sheriff’s audit unfinished

Published 4:40 pm Saturday, May 21, 2016


AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners held their monthly work session on May 10 at the Sumter County Courthouse, followed by the board’s regular meeting on May 17.
Several local citizens showed up at the board’s regular meeting on May 17 due to the fact that many were under the mistaken belief that the results of an ongoing forensic audit of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department would be presented.
Though the proposed schedule for the release of the forensic audit data had been discussed at the board’s work session, it was never explicitly stated that  the results would be presented at the May regular meeting.
During the work session, board Chairman, Randy Howard, was asked about the time table for the audit report.  “They are supposed to report to us next week to bring us up to date,” he answered. “Not necessarily to close it out. They constantly bring us up to date on stuff, so we’ll have a little more information then.”
At the regular meeting, the board went into a closed session on County Attorney, Kimberly Reid’s request, to discuss an unspecified legal matter. No action was taken upon returning to the open session.
In a follow-up press release, County Administrator, Bill Twomey, wrote, “There is an ongoing forensic audit of the Sheriff’s Office, and until the independent auditor has finalized the audit and submitted his findings to the commissioners, no action on this item is anticipated by the commissioners.”
Later in the work session, Howard stated that the forensic investigation has been going on for several years. “I believe, in September of 2014, we met with the director of the GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation], at which time, he recommended that we assist him… It takes a long, drawn-out investigation,” he said. “He recommended forensic investigators that we interviewed… [The investigation has continued] on and off since then, since 2014.”
Howard was asked if criminal charges would be filed if the investigation reveals misappropriation of taxpayer funds within the Sheriff’s Department.
“Well, that depends on what the auditors present to us,” Howard responded. “Once they present their findings to us, then our county attorney [Reid] will give us advice… and the County Commission will make a decision on what the next steps are; whether they be criminal or civil. If there’s any wrongdoing, rest assured that somebody’s going to have to pay it back…”
The commission was asked about rumors that the sheriff had spent money on golf tournaments and cookouts.
“We won’t know that until we get an audit back,” replied commissioner, George Torbert.
The board was then asked about alleged sexual harassment charges filed against employees of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department. “I don’t have an answer on that because that’s the sheriff’s responsibility,” Howard replied. “If there are any sexual harassment complaints [within the department], he has to deal with those complaints… You need to ask the sheriff those questions.”
Several other items were discussed at the work session, many of which were approved at the regular meeting a week later.
The board considered an application for an alcoholic beverage license, submitted by Wolf Creek Vineyard. The vineyard’s owner, Mat Johnson, spoke on behalf of the business, stating that they intend to sell wine produced from the vineyard’s harvests on-site.
The application was approved at the regular meeting.
The board considered an application for an alcoholic beverage license submitted by Reflections Sports Bar and Grill. Anita Denard Mays spoke on behalf of the business. The request was approved at the regular meeting.
Sumter County Extension Coordinator, Bill Starr, informed the board that he had been asked to serve as interim  extension coordinator for Schley and Marion Counties. The board thanked him.
Sumter County Human Resources Manager, Leah Watson, discussed potential changes to the health insurance plans for county employees. Watson stated that a standard plan was found to be available that is cheaper, and provides better benefits in many ways, than the county employees’ current non-standard plan. She recommended that the board consider moving county employees to that standard plan.
“Our recommendation is to go to that standard plan since it is a cheaper plan, however, the County took the cost last year. This year, we’re going to recommend that the employees take the percentage increase and leave the county the same,” Watson said. She then went on to detail the County’s portion of the costs for the current plans. The changes were approved at the regular meeting.
The board discussed the amended budget/millage-setting calendar. The discussion was postponed due to lack of pertinent information and will be continued at a later date.
Susan Roquemore was re-appointed to the MH/MR/SA Community board. Jan Oxford was re-appointed to the Sumter County Board of Family and Child Services. Janice H. Cliett was re-appointed to the Sumter County Library Board. It was noted that the term of Sharon L. Tarver on the Sumter County Library Board will be expiring soon. The Board of Commissioners agreed to push back the deadline for applications for appointment to this board so that a qualified replacement can be found.
Al Williams was re-appointed to the to the Sumter Livestock Authority.
Sumter Sheriff’s Department, Col. Eric Bryant requested the board approve the purchase of a Ford F-150 truck for use in the department. The request was approved at the regular meeting. The board also approved a request from the Sheriff’s Department to send two surplus vehicles to auction.