LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bullitt County's former sheriff illegally collected fees from operating a tow lot and failed to turn over the proceeds to Kentucky state government, Auditor Mike Harmon found in an audit released Thursday.
Donnie Tinnell, who was sheriff in 2017 and 2018, operated the lot and took in at least $158,000 in fees even though state law prohibited such a practice, the audit says. The General Assembly changed that law this year.
The audit says Tinnell placed the fees in a separate bank account and didn't send them to the state as is required of other fees.
"This significantly increases the risk that the tow lot fees collected are not used appropriately by the sheriff's office," Harmon's office wrote in a press release.
Tinnell did not respond to the audit, but he told WDRB News that running the tow lot was a "necessary thing for us to do" even though he said he was advised against it. He says the department needs the money.
Tinnell operated the tow lot and collected fees for towing and vehicle storage, according to the audit. The lot charged people $25 per day and took ownership of vehicles not paid out by a certain date. The vehicles were then sold, and proceeds of those sales were deposited in a bank account.
The audit also says Tinnell did not have control over what was happening with the money. It says original invoices were not kept, invoices had no time stamps and paperwork was not kept to show when invoices were paid.
The report also found Tinnell did not keep track of bids when his office spent $39,200 for two vehicles. The former sheriff was also criticized for lax controls on payroll, receipts, outside employment for employees and money used to buy drugs in undercover operations.
The current Bullitt County Sheriff, Walt Sholar, says one of his first general orders as Sheriff when he took office on January 7th, 2019 was to "cease operation of the tow lot."
Sholar advocated to change the law, which the General Assembly changed in March of this year. The lot reopened immediately, and it generates thousands of dollars a month for the Sheriff's Department.
Officials with the auditor's office say they won't recommend for law enforcement to further investigate Tinnell.
The complete audit is online through Harmon's office.
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