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Audit shows thousands in questioned costs at Payne County Sheriff's Office

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A new audit was released this week.

A Payne County Sheriff’s Office administrative assistant is accused of misappropriating $137,698.52.

The investigative audit found the misused taxpayer money was spent on a wide array of items, such as vinyl flooring, car repairs and a farmhouse sink between 2010 and 2022.

Cindy Byrd, the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector, said Linda Farley, the former administrative assistant, is responsible for misappropriating $82,176.54 through the use of a sheriff’s office credit card and turning in altered or fabricated invoices for payment.

“Fortunately, County Clerk Glenna Craig and Sheriff Joe Harper discovered the problem shortly after Harper took office in 2021,” Byrd said.

The Payne County Board of Commissioners requested the audit.

The remaining amount, $55,521.98, was spent on questioned costs. Purchases went through the payment process and an authorized official approved them, according to a press release from the state auditor’s office.

“This employee was allowed to operate with impunity because she was given a signature stamp by the previous administrations,” Byrd said. “She used the stamps to forge signatures on payroll claims and purchase orders.”

Byrd said for years, the auditor and investigator’s office has encouraged government officials to restrict access to signature stamps.

“In this case, it would appear our advice and encouragement was ignored,” Byrd said.

The audit also found Farley’s pay exceeded her authorized salary, resulting in a questioned cost of $20,282.22.

The final report has been given to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the District Attorney’s office. It will ultimately be up to them to prosecute.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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