Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd (left) defended his office against accusations from Burnet County Judge James Oakley (right), who called for a forensic audit of the Sheriff's Office due to alleged payroll irregularities. Staff photos by Dakota Morrissiey
The Burnet County judge and sheriff went head to head in a Commissioners Court meeting Sept. 26 over the need for a forensic audit of the Sheriff’s Office. Judge James Oakley pushed for the $15,000 to $20,000 audit due to what he called “payroll irregularities,” while Sheriff Calvin Boyd took to the podium and called the audit a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Commissioners unanimously approved funding a forensic audit to be conducted by outside accounting firm Baker Tilly.
During the sometimes tense discussion, Oakley repeatedly claimed an audit would be in the best interest of the county. He said he had received information regarding certain payroll practices in the Sheriff’s Office that needed investigating.
Boyd stood before the Commissioners Court and defended his office, saying the matter had already been thoroughly investigated by the Texas Rangers, who he said found no wrongdoing. He laid out what he understood the complaint to be.
“There was an accusation that we were telling our guys they get an hour of overtime and they didn’t have to work it,” Boyd told the court. “That’s ludicrous. We would never do that. There are going to be some inconsistencies (in how payroll is labeled), but there is nothing criminal about it. You can do the audit — that is what it’s going to show. My point is, why are we paying for an audit when we already know what the deal is?”
He then accused Oakley of retaliating against the Sheriff’s Office because of a grand jury indictment that resulted in the judge’s suspension without pay for five months. Oakley was found not guilty on a Class A misdemeanor charge by a Blanco County jury on Aug. 31. He was reinstated the day after the verdict. Three other charges were quashed but are waiting a ruling from the Third Court of Appeals in Texas.
“This is simply retaliation, and Mr. Oakley, when he was on suspension, he said there was going to be a big blowout when he returns, so that’s what we’re seeing here,” Boyd said.
Oakley countered that his indictment was a retaliation by the Sheriff’s Office. In March, when it was time to sign an affidavit for an outside audit required by state law, the judge refused.
“Part of that process is an affidavit that you sign saying that you’re not aware of any fraud or anything,” Oakley said at the Tuesday meeting. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to sign it this year (because of Sheriff’s Office’s payroll issues). Low and behold, I get indicted first part of March. I get eliminated from the picture. So you want to talk about retaliation?”
At one point during the meeting, Oakley called for a recess to verify information with 33rd and 424th Judicial District District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee, who was involved in the initial investigation.
Boyd explained to DailyTrib.com during that recess that his office was tracking overtime hours for officers in training, who were consistently spending an additional hour at work to complete required instruction. According to Boyd, this additional hour was being set aside from the normal hours worked and tracked differently than the rest, leading to the irregularities to which Oakley referred.
Boyd went on to say that McAfee and Burnet County Auditor Karin Smith had reviewed the payroll irregularities and found nothing criminal. He also said the Texas Rangers had been notified of the matter and conducted their own investigation.
This point led to a recess when Oakley said he had no knowledge of the results of a Texas Rangers investigation. During that time, Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo confirmed with McAfee that the DA had spoken with the state law enforcement agency regarding the Sheriff’s Office payroll.
McAfee told DailyTrib.com in a phone call that this was the case, adding that he also had investigated the accusation of payroll irregularities and found no criminal wrongdoing.
“What we saw (in our investigation) was nothing that was criminal,” McAfee said. “(The information) was referred to in (the Sheriff’s Office) database one way and it should have been another way. My takeaway was, yes, (the deputies) had worked the hours. They had just labeled those hours in a different way.”
County Auditor Smith and Human Resources Director Sara Ann Luther also reported that they were contacted by the Texas Rangers in their investigation
Smith said she looked over the initial complaint and decided her office should not be involved.
“When I reviewed the complaint that came in to me, my initial review was not in depth at all, but it appeared that the complaint had merit, so I reported it to the sheriff, I reported it to the county attorney and the district attorney because those are the investigative bodies,” she said. “That’s why I did not investigate further.”
Oakley stuck to his guns on the necessity of the audit, which ultimately led to unanimous approval from fellow members of the Commissioners Court.
“I’m trying to do my job because I swore and took an oath to uphold the laws, and I am going to see it through,” he said. “I don’t see what is wrong with getting an outside, very professional firm to come take a look at things.”