The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

September 25, 2009

State audit slams former Keokuk Co. sheriff

SIGOURNEY — The state auditor released a report Friday accusing former Keokuk County Sheriff Ron George of failing to return property after leaving the department and mishandling evidence while in office.

David Vaudt’s report was the result of a request from Jeff Shipley, the new sheriff. Shipley defeated George in a hard-fought election last November.

The report says Shipley found George had failed to return his uniform, badge and a $8,400 thermal imaging camera. Evidence was allegedly not secured and deputies told the auditor George “was seen destroying records prior to leaving office.” (Click here to download a pdf copy of the report.)

Vaudt concluded it is not possible to determine whether all the department’s seized and forfeited property has been accounted for.

Two major concerns about evidence emerge in the report. The first is the conclusion that George did not maintain an evidence room for the department. Evidence rooms are secured areas with limited access. Departments use them to keep evidence secure and ensure there is no tampering with evidence.

“[N]on-cash property seized or recovered was placed in the squad room or in deputies’ offices. Sometimes the eveidence was placed in the garage attached to the Sheriff’s office or [one] of the sheds outside the main building,” the report states.

That problem has been partially remedied. The auditor found the department is now using a specific garage and allows only the sheriff and one other deputy access to that site.

The other primary question is whether the documents deputies allege were destroyed relate to evidence or cases the department investigated. The audit says no one was able to recover “copies of evidence sheets and/or case logs or case files,” that the department should have retained.

Without those records, investigators were unable to determine what property, if any, should go back to legal owners and what should be forfeited to the county. That property includes numerous firearms found in the department. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is working with the department to find a solution.

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