Oklahoma GOP, County Commissioners Want Whetsel's Suspension07-Nov-2016
When an Oklahoma County District Judge noticed that indirect costs of incarceration were included in the daily rate of incarceration Oklahoma County Jail inmates were required to pay, it prompted an investigation into the finances of the jail and the office of Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel.
A few weeks ago, the investigative report was released, and it appears to show significant financial mismanagement by the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office.
Now, at least two groups are calling for Sheriff Whetsel to either suspend himself or to otherwise face suspension amid allegations of financial wrongdoing.
In late October, the Oklahoma County Republican Party requested that the sheriff suspend himself pending the outcome of an ongoing audit investigation. Oklahoma County Republicans Chairman Daren Ward said in the group's request, "The audit released last week shows instances of possible embezzlement, bribery and corruption. If this suspected behavior is proven to be true, it is not only inexcusable, but a complete violation of the trust the citizens of Oklahoma County have invested in the sheriff for the past two decades."
Whetsel's office rejected the GOP's request, stating that the sheriff was too busy with the manhunt of accused murderer Michael Vance to "dignify these political games."
Vance was later killed in a shootout with Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers.
Now, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan is calling for the suspension of the sheriff. The commissioners put a discussion of Whetsel on the agenda for the meeting after receiving citizen complaints, Maughan says.
Although the commissioners themselves cannot suspend Sheriff Whetsel, they can request a judge to suspend him with pay pending the outcome of an ouster trial.
Maughan proposed a vote on whether to ask a judge for the sheriff's suspension; however, commissioners decided to delay the vote for two weeks, until Commissioner Ray Vaughn, who is recovering from knee surgery, can be present to vote.
Sheriff Whetsel did not attend the county commissioners meeting, and a spokesman says the sheriff was "shocked" that the group wanted to vote on his suspension.
Campaign spokesman Pat Hall said of the sheriff, "Sheriff Whetsel has been upfront and honest addressing any issue and will continue being the law enforcement professional that he has been the last 49 years."
The incumbent sheriff says that the timing of the release of the audit is a political ploy to manipulate the upcoming election. He denies any wrongdoing, saying, "To the extent any of the findings constituted errors on my part or on the part of my staff, they were just that, errors, and for that I apologize to our citizens."
Whetsel, who has been Oklahoma County Sheriff for 20 years, is running for re-election against state Representative Mike Christian, a retired state trooper.
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