Audit of former Leslie County sheriff shows poor accounting, deficits

State Auditor Mike Harmon.
State Auditor Mike Harmon. File photo.

The former sheriff of Leslie County should pay more than $260,000 to make up for deficits resulting from poor record keeping, disallowed disbursements and overspending, according to reports released Tuesday by state Auditor Mike Harmon.

Paul Howard failed to make good on financial shortfalls his office had going back as far as 2008, one report said.

Several findings will be reported to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and the Leslie County attorney, according to Harmon’s office.

Harmon’s office released an audit of Howard’s fee account for 2014 and an audit of his tax settlement covering April through December of that year.

Howard left office at the end of 2014 after serving two terms as sheriff.

The audit said Howard is personally responsible for repaying $104,324 to cover a 2014 shortfall that resulted from problems such as spending more than his office took in; not properly documenting payments; and spending money for things that auditors found did not serve an allowable public purpose.

The rule is that the expenditure of public money by local officials must be necessary, adequately documented, reasonable in amount, beneficial to the public, and not primarily personal in nature, the audit said.

Among other things, there was not sufficient documentation on $7,597 in checks issued to employees or $4,728 in checks written to “cash” but endorsed by employees, the audit said.

Auditors also disallowed $834 spent on items such as food, alcohol and Christmas cards.

The rest of the money the audits recommended Howard pay was for problems in earlier years.

Howard did not provide responses to auditors and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Auditors had to try to reconstruct Howard’s tax collections in 2014 using records from other sources because he did not provide some records as required, the report on the tax settlement said.

Field auditors received information that Howard removed some accounting records from the office, the report said.

The fee-account audit said Howard failed to make sure money his office collected was deposited as it should have been. It is possible not all the money was recorded or deposited, the audit said.

That finding will be reported to Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office, the audit said.

Sheriff’s offices in Kentucky handle collections of property taxes and some other fees. The offices get a commission from tax collections to fund operations.

The audits found several accounting problems in Howard’s office. One result was that the county, the school system and other local government agencies didn’t get all the money they should have.

For instance, the local school system is owed $54,032 from the 2013 tax account, which Howard has not yet settled.

School Superintendent Anthony Little said he would talk to school board members and the county attorney about the findings.

“We could certainly use our part,” Little said.