'Sheriff's Office investigation remains unresolved."
Twice a month since September that headline has been published on the front page of the U-B.
No, it's not a joke, although the frequency of its publication is reminiscent of Bill Murray's 1993 "Groundhog Day" film with its every-day-is-exactly-the-same gag.
Frankly, we wish it were a joke. More than two years ago -- 28 months to be exact -- an investigation was launched regarding financial improprieties in the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office. It started in October 2009 when then-Sheriff Mike Humphreys requested the Washington State Patrol do an investigation.
Officials have said the probe focused on an individual, but requests for details have been denied on the grounds the matter is still under investigation.
The State Patrol began the investigation and the state Auditor's Office became involved.
The investigation became the talk of the town during the 2010 election for sheriff, even though nobody had any idea what the investigation had to do with the race for sheriff. Folks figured if something was under investigation for a year it must be pretty serious.
Sheriff John Turner, who won the 2010 election, said he "reached out" to the FBI after he took office 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.
That bit of information led us to believe this might well be a very serious crime. In August of 2011, State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said: "Financial investigations are among the most complicated investigations that any agency can do. All I can tell you at this point is that it's still an active case."
Wow, with all these twists and turns -- albeit at a glacial pace -- this suspected crime could make Al Capone look like a petty crook.
But on Monday, when the U-B's reporter made his twice-monthly check of the investigation's status, the FBI was singing the same song. "I do not have any new public information in this ongoing matter," Harrill said.
The length of this investigation is ridiculous. Either the Spokane office of the FBI is either severely overworked, incompetent or its agents are purposely dragging this matter out.
It was our hope that running the "Sheriff's Office investigation remains unresolved" story every two weeks would bring some public pressure to all involved to wrap up the case. And, more importantly, we want readers to know we have not forgotten about the investigation and we will publish the results as soon as possible. The U-B is not letting this go.