Columbus – A former county sheriff bought shoes, neckties and amusement park passes with taxpayer dollars, according to the special audit of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department’s Furtherance of Justice Fund, released by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
“In no way do cigars and Cedar Point passes further the cause of justice,” Auditor Yost said. “While I’m glad the citizens of Ottawa County have been repaid, a man of the law should know better than to use a public credit card for a shopping spree.”
In May 2011, during Ottawa County’s regular financial audit, auditors examined the sheriff’s office use of Furtherance of Justice (FOJ) funds and found purchases for as medications and Cedar Point Amusement Park season passes. These purchases appeared to be unrelated to the purpose in which funds must be used. After this discovery, the Auditor of State’s Special Audit Task Force looked at the expenditures. On June 20, 2011, the Task Force expanded the scope of the county’s financial audit to include procedures to examine all FOJ expenditures. On September 19, 2011, the results of the preliminary investigation prompted the initiation of a special audit of the sheriff’s FOJ funds.
The special audit reviewed bank records and credit card statements and found that expenditures totaling $9,114 were personal in nature. Former Sheriff Robert Bratton issued checks totaling $5,061 payable to “cash,” “Sheriff Bob Bratton” or the bank to facilitate the withdrawal of FOJ funds. Of that amount, $2,657 was unsupported by documentation, and therefore, the proper public purpose could not be determined. Bratton also made $1,973 in unsupported gift card purchases with the FOJ MasterCard credit card, as well as $160 in office gift items.
Bratton used the FOJ MasterCard to make personal purchases, such as $1,356 worth of personal prescriptions. He also purchased the following items -- all totaling $745:
- Reading glasses
- A haircut
- A physician's office copayment
- A watch
- A coat
On June 3, 2010, Bratton bought two 2010 Platinum Pass Vouchers for the Cedar Point Amusement Park at the price of $323. The passes were issued in the name of a person not employed by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.
“This shopping list is just incredible,” Auditor Yost said. “The taxpayers’ belts are already tight – they shouldn’t have to pay for his belt, too.”
A finding for recovery was issued against Bratton in the amount of $7,679. The Auditor of State’s office later received documentation supporting $465 of the expenditures, and on February 10, 2012, Bratton repaid the remaining $7,214 into the Ottawa County General Fund. This information has been passed on to the Ottawa County Prosecutor.
On August 31, 2011, Bratton announced his resignation as Ottawa County Sheriff to become police chief in the Village of Genoa, effective September 23, 2011.
A full copy of this special audit may be accessed online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.