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Norton calls for GBI probe of sheriff’s office

A lone Grady County commissioner called for a probe into the Grady County sheriff’s office by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Tuesday night, but he failed to gain the support of his fellow commissioners.
Dist. 3 Commissioner Charles Norton, just prior to adjournment, made a motion authorizing Chairman Elwyn Childs to request the GBI investigate Sheriff Harry Young’s office in regard to two separate bank accounts maintained by Sheriff Young.
Norton said the county’s auditor, Tom E. Carmichael Jr., recommended the county seek additional information regarding the accounts in order to determine if any additional research or investigation is warranted.
Information the auditor suggested the county gather includes: when the accounts were opened and by whom; what federal ID number the accounts listed under; who has signature authority; support for the source of deposits; vendor invoices or other support for disbursements; and physical location of equipment purchased.
“We need to know the source of the revenue going into those accounts, and where the materials purchased with that money went and are now,” Commissioner Norton said.
During 2007, according to the auditor’s findings, $18,681 was deposited into one account and $9,019.77 in the other. Disbursements in one totaled $16,892.74 and $8,975.92 in the other.
Commissioners had requested the auditor review the bank accounts after learning of their existence and the omission of them from the county’s annual audit.
The board of commissioners also issued a call for receipts from the sheriff’s office documenting how county funds appropriated annually for uniforms were spent.
Other concerns of Norton’s was one check that was cashed but the “paid to” line was left blank, and two other checks that were used to pay American Express charges.
County Administrator Rusty Moye said Tuesday night he had discussed those checks with the sheriff and that Sheriff Young had receipts and documentation to back up the checks.
Dist. 4 Commissioner Al Ball suggested rather than calling in the GBI at this time the board should outline their concerns in a letter that stipulates a timeline in which the sheriff can meet with the board and explain his position regarding the concerns.
“If that time passes, or if the explanations are not satisfactory, then at that time we could look at further investigation,” Commissioner Ball said.
County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley also reminded commissioners that the GBI would not do additional auditing of the sheriff’s checking accounts.
“What they will be looking at is if there is any evidence of a crime and, if so, can it be proven,” Cauley said.
Chairman Childs agreed that all questions should be answered. He noted, “We need to clear this up. There shouldn’t be anything out there in the shadows.”
“If there is no wrong doing then there won’t be an issue, but if there is, we need to expose it,” Commissioner Norton responded.
Dist. 2 Commissioner Charles Renaud agreed with Ball that a letter outlining the board’s concerns should be the next step rather than calling in the GBI.
Without a second, Norton’s motion to request a GBI probe died. Commissioner Ball then made a motion to transmit a letter of concerns to the sheriff and Renaud seconded the motion.
Following the meeting, Norton said his intention is bring the matter to a conclusion. “This is all about accountability. If it turns out that it blows up down the road I did what I needed to do by making this motion,” Norton said.

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