Sheriff called state official
A director with the State Auditor’s Office confirmed that Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins contacted them in recent days regarding two audits that were critical of departmental spending, but would not elaborate as to the nature of those discussions.
Stuart Stickel, the director of the Chief Inspector’s Division, said Hawkins did not speak with Stickel directly, but he did not say with whom Hawkins may have talked.
“Whether he spoke with the auditor assigned or not,” Stickel said, “the fact of the matter is, that’s a decision that he would make, not us. He did contact somebody in our office. It might have been local government sources or the auditor assigned to do that.”
Hawkins has repeatedly declined to comment to The Inter-Mountain about the audit findings, which were first published Saturday. The audits claimed that funds from the sheriff’s department’s concealed weapons funds were improperly spent on gift cards, flowers and alcohol for deputies and office staff.
Stickel said he is unable to comment about how much of the funds were misused. He confirmed that, according to the state’s ethics guidelines, the funds would have to have been in excess of $25 per employee.
“That’s a real general Ethics Commission guideline that relates to employee recognition,” Stickel said. “Pretty much, when we see any type of what could be considered employee recognition payments, that’s the guideline that we use.”
Although the audit states that the alcohol, flowers and gift cards were purchased for office staff and deputies, Stickel said he could not specify for whom those items were purchased for or what amount was spent.
“Both findings are pretty much the same,” Stickel said about the 2011 and 2012 fiscal year audits that both were recently announced. “We aren’t able to quantify the amount. We can’t tell (any information) beyond what is in the audit report.”
Stickel said that all audits with ethical findings are turned over to the prosecuting attorney and the West Virginia Attorney General. There are no consequences directly from the auditor’s office for the findings.
“Our involvement pretty much stops at the point where we report the finding,” Stickel said.
The Barbour County Commission submitted the findings to the West Virginia State Ethics Commission. A secretary at the West Virginia State Ethics Commission said that once a complaint is reviewed and a decision is made, it is posted online at www.ethics.wv.gov.
She said that, depending on the complexity of a complaint, the timeline for a decision could vary significantly. She would not confirm or deny that her office received the complaint that the Barbour County Commission say they filed.
The audit reports are unrelated to other controversies currently surrounding Hawkins that involve two pending civil lawsuits – one in federal court and another in circuit court – both of which were filed in July.
An attorney for Brittany Mae Keene, 19, of Moatsville, filed a 15-count federal civil suit in U.S. District Court on July 18, claiming Hawkins sexually assaulted her and then threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The same complaint alleges Hawkins sexually assaulted five other unidentified women.
Hawkins also was the target of a civil lawsuit filed on July 25 by the private investigator in Keene’s case, Franklin D. Streets Jr., regarding a Facebook post that Streets claims was libelous and defamatory. The civil lawsuit was filed in Barbour County Circuit Court.