KS Sheriff tried to dissuade Gang Strike Force audit
Bob Fletcher says he changed his mind after cash and vehicles could not be found.
By PAUL McENROE, Star Tribune
Last update: May 24, 2009 - 12:05 AM
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher repeatedly tried to prevent a state investigation into the financial operations of the Metro Gang Strike Force, over which his office has fiscal oversight, according to officials directly involved in the state probe that led to the sudden shutdown last week of the unit's activities.
Fletcher's office also did not undertake an in-depth review of how hundreds of thousands of dollars, personal property and vehicles were being accounted for after his office learned last fall that state Department of Public Safety investigators were raising concerns, the officials said.
In a March 3 e-mail to the strike force's advisory board of a dozen local law enforcement officials, a copy of which was obtained by the Star Tribune, Fletcher complained that "it would be a shame" if an audit stemmed from "political motives." He noted in the e-mail that the unit's former commander, Ron Ryan, now under scrutiny for activities on his watch, had an "exemplary" 40-year record of service as a police officer.
Sources also said that Fletcher got into shouting matches with Public Safety Director Michael Campion, complaining that state auditors should not be involved in strike force matters. Fletcher denies those assertions.
But in an interview Friday, Fletcher acknowledged that he had opposed a state audit because he believed it would be based on politics and didn't think it was necessary. He said he would have preferred a private company to perform an audit. He also denied his office was responsible for any oversight of money seized in strike force investigations and instead blamed Ryan, his friend, for mishandling cash and confiscated property.
Fletcher said Friday that he later changed his mind on the need for a state audit, after examiners discovered that the strike force could not account for more than $18,000 cash and at least 13 vehicles.