Vermont sheriff says expenses legitimate

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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) – Windham County Sheriff Sheila Prue is being unfairly accused of financial impropriety in running the department, her lawyer says, and she says she has formal documentation to prove it.

Tina Buehler said the sheriff had not intentionally done anything wrong and was following past practice in charging a number of expenses to the department that the state auditor said were personal. Buehler also complained that Auditor Randy Brock had not shared the audit findings with Prue before publicly releasing them, preventing her from answering them.

Brock said that was nothing more than a smoke screen. Prue should have worked with his staff during the investigation. The reason she was not given access to the report was that it was not a typical audit, but an investigation that could lead to a criminal referral, he said.

“This was an examination that we were doing in response to a series of allegations of financial misconduct,” he said.

Prue charged things such as telephone costs and insurance to the sheriff’s department, just as previous Sheriffs Henry Farnum and Bill Graham did, Buehler said. Such practices have passed muster in previous audits, Buehler said.

The auditor’s report said that Prue had inappropriately provided a car and cell phone to her partner at the department’s expense. Buehler said that was because the partner was a “civil servant” for the department and used them in that capacity.

“Could errors have been made? That goes back to the underlying policies of the department,” Buehler said.

Brock said even if it had been done in the past, that was not an excuse. And he said Prue appeared to charge a lot more personal items than other sheriffs have.

“Of those transactions, we saw nothing that in any way approached the level of what happened here,” Brock said.

Brock said he found no records to substantiate that Prue’s partner worked for the department.

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