Whitesburg KY

State audior: Ex-Harlan sheriff wasted $27,000

The former sheriff of Harlan County spent more than $27,000 over two years for purchases that were poorly documented, unreasonable or improper, including personal clothing, food and alcohol, and a subscription to a dating website, according to audits released this week.

Marvin Lipfird, who left office at the end of the year, should repay the money to accounts in his old office, auditors recommended.

The reports from Auditor Adam Edelen’s office also said Lipfird’s office could not account for more than $9,300 in drug-buy money in 2012. That finding will be referred to Kentucky State Police for further investigation, the audit said.

An audit covering 2012 said another finding — that Lipfird registered vehicles used in drug investigations under fake names — will be referred to the state Transportation Cabinet.

There is no state law allowing a sheriff to get titles for vehicles under assumed names, and there are penalties for knowingly providing false information to get a vehicle title, the audit said.

Lipfird did not respond to the audit findings, and efforts to reach him were not successful.

Edelen’s office released audit reports this week on Lipfird’s accounts for 2012 and 2013. Both found a number of bookkeeping problems, including inadequate checks and balances on receipts and spending.

Lipfird had put some controls in place, but they were not enough to detect errors and misstatements such as those outlined in the findings on improper or undocumented spending, the audits said.

Auditors disallowed a total of $27,774 in spending by Lipfird’s office in 2012 and 2013, meaning they judged it was not for an official purpose, as required by law.

The state’s highest court set rules in 1958 for judging the propriety of spending by local fee officials, according to the audits. Expenditures of taxpayer money must be necessary, adequately documented, reasonable, beneficial to the public and not primarily personal in nature to be allowed, the high court said.

Much of Lipfird’s disallowed spending fell short of that test for lack of proper documentation, such as receipts.

The reports said some of the spending was for items that were not reasonable or necessary, including $2,159 for food, including alcohol; $ 1,162 in hotel charges; $453 for personal clothing; $135 for baby items; $90 for a massage; and $1,718 for personal purchases that were not described.

The disallowed costs included $659 that Lipfird’s office spent for subscriptions to websites, including a dating site and a site offering legal advice, and a $250 payment to an attorney for advice related to the contract for a reality television show.

A camera crew followed Lipfird and his officers for a show called Kentucky Justice that aired on the National Geographic channel for several episodes beginning in late 2013.

Lipfird told the Harlan Daily Enterprise that he and his deputies received no pay for the show.

Auditors also disallowed more than $6,000 in charges for cellphones.

Records showed that the office was paying for a number of cellphones that no one used. As a result, the auditors deemed those costs not reasonable or necessary.

Lipfird served two terms as sheriff. He lost a bid for re-election last year.

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