Hawkins mum on repaying funds

Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins refused to say Tuesday if he has repaid or is planning to repay a departmental fund about $700 that a state audit alleged was improperly spent on flowers, gift cards and alcohol for office staff.

“I have no comment for The Inter-Mountain,” Hawkins said Tuesday night when contacted on his cell phone.

An Associated Press story reported that Hawkins planned to repay the money, but county officials said they were unaware of any plans made by the embattled sheriff to do so.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Commissioner Phil Hart said.

Hart and County Commission president Jedd Schola both said they were out of town Tuesday. Hart said he only knew what some media outlets were reporting. He said he didn’t have any additional information on the situation.

“I’ve been out of town,” Schola said. “I have no idea.”

Audit reports from the past two fiscal years claimed that money from the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department concealed weapons fund was used in the purchase of alcohol, flowers and gift cards for office staff.

“I know there were flowers purchased,” Hart said, but did not say for whom the flowers were purchased.

Hart deferred questions to Schola and County Administrator Chuck Foley. Calls to Foley at the Barbour County Courthouse were not returned on Tuesday. When Schola was asked why the purchases were made and who they were for, he said those questions needed to be answered by the state auditor’s office.

“As far as the receipts go … I do know where everything went and who it was for, but Samantha Woods was the lead auditor. You need to contact her and she will give you all the details,” Schola wrote in a text message to an Inter-Mountain reporter Tuesday.

The Inter-Mountain reported Saturday that the audit results were given to the Ethics Commission by county officials, and that any resulting punishment is in the hands of the Ethics Commission. Hawkins also refused to comment for that article.

The recent audit findings are not the only controversy that surrounds Hawkins and the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department.

Hawkins also was recently named in two civil lawsuits filed in July, one in federal court and another in the Barbour County Circuit Court. Brittany Mae Keene, 19, of Moatsville, filed a 15-count complaint against Hawkins in U.S. District Court on July 18, alleging that Hawkins sexually assaulted her and threatened her life if she told anyone about it.

The civil suit also alleges that five other unidentified women were sexually assaulted by Hawkins. Hawkins has repeatedly denied Keene’s accusations. The Barbour County Commission has also been named as a co-defendant in Keene’s civil case against Hawkins.

Hawkins was also the target of another suit on July 25, when the private investigator for Keene’s case, Franklin D. Streets Jr., accused him of libel and defamation regarding a posting on Facebook.

The two-count complaint was filed in the Barbour County Circuit Court.