The real-life soap opera created over the investigation into possible financial improprieties in the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office is unfolding at a glacial pace (much like TV soap operas).
Last week Walla Walla was greeted with a new twist.
State Auditor Brian Sonntag responded to the request by the Walla Walla County Board of Commissioners for a status report on the investigation. Unfortunately, Sonntag didn't shed enough light to stop the mushrooms from growing. He wrote that on the "advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we are not able to provide any information" except that the county has paid $14,126 for the Auditor's Office work on the investigation from October 2009 through 2010.
The FBI became involved with the case when Sheriff John Turner said he "reached out" to the agency after he took office in 2011 and reviewed the case.
The investigation began more than two years ago when then-Sheriff Mike Humphreys asked the State Patrol to look into a possible problem in his office. Since then the investigation has been the source of rumors, angst and political fodder. The investigation became an issue in the 2010 election for sheriff between Turner and Bill White, who was then a captain in the Sheriff's Office.
During the campaign for sheriff, the investigation into financial misconduct was used as a political weapon to cast doubt on the competency of the Sheriff's Office and the administration. This was nonsense since it was Humphreys who got wind of the problem and asked for an investigation.
But who would have thought such an investigation would take so long and be so expensive?
"This matter has created much ill-will in the community, and rumors are rampant regarding past employees, by name, causing pain and also affecting the community's trust," the three county commissioners wrote to Sonntag in February. "It seems inconceivable that this matter has languished to this extent, with no finalization."
What type of federal crime could have been committed that warrants the FBI's involvement? It's baffling. The lack of any logical explanation has fueled malicious rumors.
Commissioners and Sheriff Turner -- as well as taxpayers -- have reason to be outraged. The FBI needs to wrap up the investigation so this community can move on.