Let's wrap up probe of county Sheriff's Office

It's been nearly two years since the State Patrol was called in to investigate financial improprieties.

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Was the crime of the century committed inside the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office?

Given the investigation by the State Patrol into possible financial improprieties at the Sheriff's Office has dragged on for nearly two years and the FBI has now joined the probe, one would think something very serious -- and complex -- occurred.

Yet, we doubt the alleged crime merits all this fuss and scrutiny.

Let's not forget it was former Sheriff Mike Humphreys who requested the State Patrol and state Auditor's Office do an investigation when he suspected a financial problem in October of 2009. However, previous routine audits by the state done of all public agencies had not detected anything wrong.

Wouldn't something involving a large sum of money be detected by auditors or even by county officials?

Our reporters and editors, like folks in the community, have heard plenty of rumors. It's difficult to sort fact from fiction -- particularly when all this chatter has had nearly two years to grow into scenarios in our minds that rival Hollywood movie plots.

Still, illegal activity of some kind might have occurred at a public agency.

Sheriff John Turner, who was elected in November 2010, said he "reached out" to the FBI after he took office earlier this year and was able to review the case.

This was confirmed by U-B reporter Andy Porter, who contacted Frank Harrill, supervisory senior resident agent with the FBI's Spokane office. Harrill said the FBI is now involved, although he declined to comment on why because the matter remains under investigation.

This issue has been a public one for about a year as it surfaced during the heated campaign for sheriff last fall between Turner and Bill White, who was then a captain in the Sheriff's Office.

The Union-Bulletin has regularly contacted State Patrol investigators seeking facts on the investigation. The answer is always the same: "Still under investigation."

A recent request by the U-B to the State Patrol for any records regarding the investigation has been denied on the grounds the case is under active investigation and nondisclosure is essential to effective law enforcement, said Gretchen Dolan, WSP public records manager.

Earlier, Bob Calkins, State Patrol spokesman, said in an email he couldn't comment on if or when any conclusion will be reached in the matter.

"Financial investigations are among the most complicated investigations that any agency can do," Calkins said. "All I can tell you at this point is that it's still an active case,"

It must be a doozy -- particularly if the FBI has to be called in.

We, like many in Walla Walla County, await answers.

It's time to wrap up the investigation and let taxpayers know what this is all about.

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