Statement of the Board of Commissioners Office-October 18, 2012

An open records request was recently filed by Mr. Gary Long, a candidate for the position of Butts County Sheriff with the Office of the County Clerk. The request was for copies of annual reports submitted by the Sheriff of Butts County to the Board of Commissioners Office itemizing seized property received during the fiscal year and the utilization of said property, covering the past four years. Mr. Long received written communication from the County Clerk that stated the following:

The Butts County Board of Commissioners do not receive any reports, papers or like received by the Butts County Sheriff’s Office detailing property and monies received as a result of any forfeiture and the utilization made thereof in 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012”.

We are obligated to report to both Sheriff Pope and to Mr. Long that the information provided by the Clerk was incorrect; however, the error was not directly her fault. With the exception of this current year’s report, those reports were submitted to an individual who is no longer employed by the Board of Commissioners and not with the Clerk.

When this issue was brought to the attention of our office on October 17, 2012, we immediately started an investigation of this matter, which included contacting the former County Administrator. He was in office from 2009 until December 16, 2011 and no longer resides in Butts County. Our contact with him was to ascertain whether he had knowledge of these reports. He confirmed that he did recall having received reports from the Sheriff in 2009, 2010 and 2011, which he kept only for reference in his budget notes. Additionally, the County’s auditing firm also confirmed that they had received this information from the Sheriff but since this was part of their independent audit, they would have had no reason to report this to the County Clerk. On September 11, 2012, the Sheriff submitted the annual report to the Interim County Administrator, who forwarded this information to all five County Commissioners for their information.

When the request for these documents was made to the County Clerk, the Clerk checked all reports that had been submitted to her office or given to her to retain and found no reports that matched what had been requested. She communicated this information to Mr. Long in written correspondence, in accordance with her duties. If she had possessed knowledge of these reports or had them in her keeping, she would have reported this to Mr. Long and presented them to him as per the law but she could not present reports which she had no knowledge of or which had not been given to her to retain.

In short, the County Clerk acted on information that her research determined to be correct but was in fact incomplete. Mr. Long acted on information from the Commissioner’s Office that he had no reason to believe might be incorrect and the Sheriff submitted these reports to county officials believing that he had done what was required of him.

Our office apologizes for any confusion that this has caused to both candidates and to the public. Over the past year, this office has worked diligently to implement strong lines of communication between the public and all elected officials as well as along internal communication lines but occasionally we continue to run across issues, some from years past, that still need to be addressed and will be addressed as they occur. Our board and administrative staff are committed to providing the most accurate information that we can and hope this prevents any further confusion. Mr. Long has been advised that we will provide him with any information that we are able to locate and has expressed his understanding that the individual who received the first three years reports is no longer employed and that this information may no longer be complete. We will also request that the Sheriff or the County’s auditing firm provide us with duplicate submissions for our permanent record retention.

Sincerely

Butts County Board of Commissioners Office