Attorney General's Office Is Reviewing A State Audit

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

The attorney general's office is now reviewing a state audit saying Martin County Sheriff Garmon Preece misused taxpayer dollars.

The sheriff is talking about the audit and doesn't think he did anything wrong.

The money adds up to more than three thousand dollars.

The sheriff says he spent it on anti-drug education materials and other items, but state auditors say that's not approved for taxpayer dollars.

The sheriff must pay it back and face the attorney general and he's not happy about the ruling.

Martin County Sheriff Garmon Preece says he thought he was doing his job when he spent more than one thousand dollars on pencils, badges, t-shirts, and other items saying don't do drugs and gave them to students, but state auditors say it was wrong.

“Disallowed because they were spent on items that were not considered essential to the office,” State Auditor Crit Luallen said.

“I believe I done the right thing, to try to teach our kids to say no to drugs and to fight drugs as hard as we can,” Sheriff Preece said.

State Auditor Crit Luallen says it was against the law to use taxpayer dollars to buy the items and says he should have used DARE funds or other grants, but the sheriff says he doesn't have DARE funds.

“It bothers me that we can't try to help our kids out in this matter through the funds that come through the sheriff's office,” Sheriff Preece said.

The state audit also says gas money may have been misused.

Auditors say the Sheriff's daughter, who is the office bookkeeper, bought gas with a department credit card several times.

“Every penny that was spent on it was for the sheriff's office,” Sheriff Preece said.

“Now that may have been official work that she was doing in her personal vehicle, but through lack of documentation, we couldn't confirm it,” Luallen said.

Luallen ordered the Sheriff to pay more than three thousand dollars for his daughter's gas and the anti-drug materials.

“I'm grudgingly not agreeing with it, but it will have to come out of my own pocket,” Sheriff Preece said.

Luallen says he must keep better financial records.

An attorney general spokesperson says it will take several weeks before they're finished with their review and decide what to do next.

The sheriff says he is working out a payment plan with the fiscal court to pay back the money.

Luallen said she did not turn this over to state police because she didn't suspect the sheriff was acting criminally, but she did turn it over to the attorney general and now it is up to him to determine if there will be charges.

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