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State auditor: Former Des Moines County chief deputy made ‘improper’ purchases

A former Des Moines County Sheriff's chief deputy made more than $7,400 in "improper" purchases of items, including a drone, that were not necessary for the operation of the sheriff’s office, Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand said.
A former Des Moines County Sheriff's chief deputy made more than $7,400 in "improper" purchases of items, including a drone, that were not necessary for the operation of the sheriff’s office, Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand said.(KWQC)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 10:02 AM CDT
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BURLINGTON, Iowa (KWQC) - A former Des Moines County Sheriff’s chief deputy made more than $7,400 in “improper” purchases of items, including a drone, that were not necessary for the operation of the sheriff’s office, Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand said.

Sand said in a report provided to TV6 that Jeff White, who retired from the department in December 2018, returned nearly $3,152 of the items to the sheriff’s office, but nearly $4,287 is unaccounted for.

Those items include a MacBook Pro laptop and ammunition, according to the report.

Sand told TV6 his office was contacted to conduct a special investigation because of concerns regarding the items purchased by Jeff White, who retired from the department in December 2018.

Sand’s report has been forwarded to the Des Moines County Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Des Moines County Attorney Lisa Schaefer said she has referred the case to the attorney general’s office because of White’s former employment in law enforcement.

Lynn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said a charging decision has not yet been made.

According to Sand’s report:

White was promoted to chief deputy in 2001 and held the position until his retirement.

Unusual credit card purchases made by White in August 2018 were identified in September 2018 by sheriff’s office personnel. Additional concerns were identified during the next few months.

Specifically, personnel found that two drones were purchased but could not be located in the sheriff’s office. They also discovered purchases that appeared to be personal in nature.

Personnel reported the first purchase of a drone was discussed with White during the week of Oct. 15, 2018.

During the meeting, he acknowledged he bought a drone and it was in his possession. White returned it to the sheriff’s office that week. On Oct. 23, 2018, he submitted a letter stating his intention to retire.

Personnel from the sheriff’s office also reported that other unusual purchases were discussed with White before his retirement. The concerns were not resolved, personnel reported.

Additional irregularities were identified before White’s retirement, including purchases of laptops, cell phones, and equipment that were purchased by the sheriff’s office but were not located in the office or vehicles.

Some of the items identified were subsequently returned to the sheriff’s office by White and/or his wife.

Officials from the sheriff’s office contacted the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, who subsequently contacted the state auditor’s office.

During the investigation, Sand identified $7,438.84 of improper purchases made between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018.

The purchases included items that were personal in nature or not related to the operations of the sheriff’s office. The purchases also were not approved by someone other than White and were not included in budgeted expenditures.

Of the improper purchases identified, items costing $99 and $79 were returned to the vendor and refunded.

While the items returned are reasonable for use in the sheriff’s office, they were not planned purchases and were not approved by anyone other than White.

Some of the items were not returned until after White’s last day of employment with the sheriff’s office, according to Sand’s report.

TV6 reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment. In a written statement, the department said:

In the fall of 2018, Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office personnel discovered some inconsistencies in department inventory and purchases made by former Chief Deputy Jeff White. Upon further investigation, it was determined that a full investigation was warranted and should be conducted by an outside agency.

The Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation as well as the Iowa State Auditor. The Iowa State Auditor completed their investigation and issued their findings on April 20, 2020.

Des Moines County Attorney Lisa Schaefer has referred this matter to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office for review. The Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office continues to cooperate with all agencies involved in this investigation and has implements all protocols suggested by the State Auditor’s Office.

Jeff White started at the Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office in 1988, he was promoted to Chief Deputy under Sheriff Mike Johnstone in 2001 and remained in that position until his retirement in December of 2018.

Copyright 2020 KWQC. All rights reserved.

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