SOMERSET — The state auditor's office has questioned the propriety of nearly $150,000 in spending by the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office in late 2009.
The office spent $75,879 for large purchases the last three weeks of that year, including nearly $22,000 for a patrol car, $9,800 for a police dog and training, $9,750 for 11 rifles and $2,826 for an ice machine, according to an audit released Thursday.
In addition, Sheriff Todd Wood's office spent $73,475 for tires, brake pads, wiper blades, 200 polo shirts and 100 jackets, the audit says.
That constituted pre-payment for goods and services, which is barred by state policy, according to Auditor Crit Luallen's office.
For example, Wood put more than $10,000 on account at a local tire store to pay for 94 tires that were not immediately picked up, according to the auditor's office.
Auditors said some of the expenditures appeared to be excessive, and many didn't seem to be necessary.
The audit also noted that Wood's office has a vehicle account from which it could have made purchases for department vehicles.
If the sheriff's office had not spent the $149,354 at the end of 2009, the money would have reverted to Pulaski County Fiscal Court, said Cindy James, the assistant state auditor. The fiscal court contributed more than $577,000 in 2009 to help run the sheriff's office.
In response to the audit, Wood said the money his office spent in late 2009 was for necessary equipment that helped improve service to residents.
The year-end purchases were authorized by the fiscal court, Wood told auditors.
He also said it made sense to plan for upcoming needs.
"If we do not utilize the fortitude of future planning in operational matters, it would surely be our citizens that would suffer," Wood said in his written response. "It is unfeasible to imagine that when our citizens request service that we might not be able (to) fulfill those needs because we failed to rationally and conservatively plan for and purchase the necessary equipment to perform our jobs and fulfill our obligations."
Luallen's office said it would turn over its findings to the fiscal court.
If magistrates and Judge-Executive Barty Bullock decide that the spending was unnecessary or unreasonable, the fiscal court could ask Wood to repay the money.
If that happens, Wood would be personally liable for some of it, and some could be repaid from his vehicle account, the audit said.
In other findings, the auditor's office disallowed $3,272 in expenses in Wood's office for items that included employee meals or food trays for funerals.
The audit said that there was not sufficient documentation and that the spending didn't benefit the public.
Wood said in his response that the costs for meals were for when employees traveled.
However, Luallen's office said it had disallowed only costs for meals at restaurants in the county.