Auditor's bill for investigation rang up $14,126

Sonntag said he could provide no information on the status of the Sheriff's Office investigation.

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WALLA WALLA - An investigation into possible financial improprieties at the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office has cost county taxpayers slightly more than $14,000, a state official said.

In a letter to county commissioners, State Auditor Brian Sonntag said that as of last week, the county has paid $14,126 for the Auditor's Office work on the investigation, which began in October 2009.

"That includes 277.4 hours of audit work and $1,315 in travel costs," Sonntag wrote.

The last bill was sent to the county more than a year ago on Jan. 11, 2011, and has been paid. No further billings are anticipated.

Sonntag said he could provide no information on the status of the investigation.

"Regarding your request for a status report, on the advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we are not able to provide any information," he wrote, referring further questions to the FBI's office in Spokane.

Sonntag's letter was in response to a demand commissioners sent in February for information on the long-running investigation.

In their Feb. 13 letter, Commissioners Greg Tompkins, Perry Dozier and Gregg Loney said they were "frustrated and incensed" over the lack of response from Sonntag's office about the audit of the Sheriff's Office.

The investigation was started at the request of then-Sheriff Mike Humphreys, who asked the Washington State Patrol to look into possible financial improprieties in his office. 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.

Along with the WSP and the state Auditor's Office, the FBI became involved with the case last year when Sheriff John Turner said he "reached out" to the agency after he took office and reviewed the case.

Since the FBI's involvement, the WSP and Auditor's Office have deferred comment to that agency.

When contacted earlier this month for an update on the investigation, Frank Harrill, supervisory senior resident agent with the FBI's Spokane office, said the agency had no information it could release on the matter.

Tompkins said, "I'm just disappointed that we paid almost $15,000 and have no results to show. Again, the legislative authority of the county has heard absolutely nothing."

Tompkins reiterated his frustration over how long the investigation has lasted.

"It's just puzzling that it's taken this long and the last bill (from Sonntag's office) was sent over a year ago. Basically, we don't have any more information now then we did before, other than what it has cost," he said.

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