REXBURG — The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is responding to accusations published in Idaho Reporter on Aug. 3 that they inappropriately using $60,000 in concealed weapons permit funds.
According to the Idaho Reporter, a watchdog journalism website, the Sheriff’s Office made several purchases between 2011 and 2014.
The article stated that the Sheriff’s Office used the funds to repair flooring and purchase used weapons, a used vehicle and bark for a shooting range.
Madison County Sheriff Roy C. Klingler told the Standard Journal in an interview that the money was indeed spent as indicated, but that the Sheriff’s Office was allowed to spend it.
“We’ve done nothing illegal,” he said.
Klingler said in each instance the money was spent on reasonable expenses that the current budget could not cover.
Klingler said at one point the flooring of the Sheriff’s Office was in terrible shape, and there was no money to replace it.
“This building was built in 1996, and when we replaced, we didn’t have any money, and the county didn’t have any money to replace tile and carpet,” he said.
He said there were problems with the concrete in the hallways, and the carpets downstairs were filthy and rotten.
He said the money specifically went into painting, putting in tile, replacing carpet and putting security locks on doors.
Klingler said that after brainstorming alternatives they concluded that the money could be taken from the concealed weapons permit fund.
“So we looked at this account and thought, ‘Hey, maybe we can cover some of these costs,’” he said.
Klingler said before the expenditures were made they checked with their attorney to ensure the money was being spent legally.
“So we checked with our attorney. We asked around. Everybody said, ‘Look, there’s no regulation saying you can’t spend that money.’ The account was built up, so we bought flooring. That was the only way we could come up with the money,” he said.
Klingler said there are no special guidelines governing those funds other than all the normal laws and guidelines that govern all public funds.
He said in another instance the money had built up enough that it was used to purchase a much-needed vehicle for the Sheriff Office’s civil deputy.
“It built up again for a couple years, and we said ‘Hey, our civil deputy doesn’t have a vehicle. Where can we get it?’ Well, we had just enough in that account to get it, so we got the car,” he said.
He said every expense made by the Sheriff’s Office is heavily scrutinized, not only by members of the Sheriff’s Office but also by the county commissioners and auditors.
“And then every little thing has to be approved by the commissioners. It’s a pretty bulletproof process, really, and then it’s all audited,” he said.
He said that even though the funds from concealed weapons permits are in a separate account they are still audited, and those expenses are at least reported to the county commissioners.
Klingler said he wanted people to understand that concealed weapons permits wasn’t just about money for him.
He said he has actively pursued doing away with concealed weapons permits completely.
“I proposed to the Sheriff’s Association that we do away with the permit. I’m extremely Second Amendment in my beliefs,” Klingler said. “I don’t think we need a permit. I really don’t. We’ve already got laws in place that people shouldn’t have guns that shouldn’t have them. It’s my opinion that we don’t need this permit process. I mean, that goes to show you that I am not in this for the money.”
Klingler said he could not understand the accusations, as he tries to spend taxpayer money wisely.
“It just is absolutely crazy. I would never, ever think of spending taxpayers’ money inappropriately,” he said.
Klingler said that the Idaho Reporter’s article fails to mention that they did cover concealed weapons permit process expenses as well, including buying a fingerprint machine.
He said at first he was hesitant to address these criticisms, as ultimately the Sheriff’s Office is not at fault.
“We have zero to hide. I just don’t want to make this a bigger deal than it is,” he said.
Klingler said he wanted to set the record straight as this issue has generated a lot of interest in the form of records requests and comments.
“We’ve done nothing illegal. We’ve done nothing unethical. You know, we’re just getting bombarded with these frivolous records requests, and if there’s any money being wasted it’s on the clerk’s office and my office. So much manpower and energy on all these silly requests. And it’s for stuff like this, and there’s no wrongdoing,” Klingler said.
He said that it’s pretty clear that the Sheriff’s Office has done nothing wrong, and he feels the individuals publishing this information have an agenda.
“There’s absolutely no wrongdoing. This is a group of people who’ve got an axe to grind,” he said.
He said the Idaho Reporter article makes it appear as if the Sheriff’s Office has made a lot of money off these funds when money spent was a result of years of accumulation.
“They construe it to look like a whole bunch of money we’ve made off of these weapons permits. And they’ve got to take in the fact that this is anywhere between six to 10 years of funds that have accumulated,” Klingler said.
He said that the state takes most of the money from the concealed weapons permit fee for background checks and the ID card itself, currently amounting to nearly $42.45.
Klingler said the Sheriff’s Office then receives the amount of money left over, which is currently approximately $20 of the $62.45.
He said not only are they not misusing the funds, but the money is going to a good cause in helping cover necessary expenses.
“It’s not any way, shape or form misusing any funds. In fact, they’re going to a very good cause. Our buildings should be kept up,” Klingler said. “Our commissioners, and our clerk, and all the officials in this county really try to do a good job, and they do. But sometimes we don’t have enough money, and we were fortunate to have that money saved.”