Ex-sheriff says audit is 'a political witch hunt'

John R. Pulliam

Former Knox County Sheriff Jim Thompson this morning called the audit of his office and that of former State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri “a political witch hunt.”

He put the blame squarely on Knox County State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer, as well as a handful of County Board members, some of whom he accused of being bitter toward him for not doing political favors for those members’ relatives or lending a hand if one of those relatives encountered legal difficulties.

The audit, performed by Carpentier, Mitchell and Goddard Company, LLC randomly sampled 405 items in the 25-page report. Current State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer said Thursday in a written statement that the report confirmed his suspicions of irresponsible record keeping, file management and bill payment.

“There is absolutely no factual evidence to support the allegations John Pepmeyer and his fellow travelers have made,” Thompson said by telephone from somewhere in southern Missouri. “The truth is this thing is just as simple as simple can be. Sometimes when people are accused of wrongdoing, they point their fingers at others.”

As to the continuing criminal investigation by the FBI, State Police and Special Prosecutor William Poncin, Thompson accused County Board members of running to the prosecutor with additional allegations whenever the probe is about to be completed.

Pepmeyer wrote Thursday that 331 of the 405 items sampled (more than 80 percent) had missing, incomplete or improper documentation, or were not properly approved. He said those items totaled almost $98,000.

Pepmeyer asked for an in-depth audit of the two offices after eight union grievances were filed against him, alleging sexual harassment, a hostile work environment and unfair labor practices. He said the accusations against him were intended to stop him from investigating the offices of the state’s attorney and sheriff.

Mangieri said earlier that he followed County Board procedures in place while he was in office. He said the report showed all bills submitted were in accordance with the County Board procedures that were in effect, and the board had sufficient documentation. He said the board should not have paid the bills if it did not have that documentation.

Thompson said of his office, “There is documentation for every expense.”

He explained the sheriff’s department was responsible for four accounts. He said three other members of the department’s staff were responsible for the money in those accounts.

“I didn’t have access to any of those dollars,” Thompson said, adding, “Allen (Pickrel) knows better than anyone that all those bills were approved and appropriated. For John Pepmeyer to say ‘what was this spent on,’ well, John, why don’t you check the records?”

Thompson alleged that during the time in question, certain individuals pulled “questionable bills.”

“They would let a bill sit,” he said. “The vendors would call and complain after a month or two.”

Thompson said although the board would say it had questions, “They never called us. Rather than ask for additional documentation or whatever — and there was always documentation — they would present these bills at board meetings when they knew Mr. Mangieri and I wouldn’t be present. “

He said those items were then used to pursue “political assassination.”

The board is responsible for more than $28,000 for the cost of the audit.

“When this is all said and done, I hope there’s a retribution to (board members voting for the audit) for wasting Knox County taxpayers’ money,” Thompson said.

He expressed bitterness about having to deal with this, instead of being honored for a 22-year career in law enforcement.

“I can tell you my family and Paul’s family have suffered health effects and psychological effects. ... The way I was rewarded for really being one of the best sheriffs in many years was getting kicked in the teeth by unscrupulous people,” he said.

John R. Pulliam can be reached at jpulliam@register-mail.com.