MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says a decision to look at how Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke spends his money is not payback, but standard practice. An audit is currently underway that will shed some light into Sheriff Clarke's spending habits. One county supervisor says it's a move Sheriff Clarke should welcome.
County officials say audits are common practice in local government, but some are asking whether auditing the sheriff's department is a way for political enemies of Sheriff Clarke to get even.
County Supervisor Eyon Biddle says it's time to find out exactly how and where Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is spending county money. "The only guy that is still talking about his budget is the sheriff, and now folks want to know 'what are you doing with that money?'" Biddle said.
County supervisors recently decided to expand an audit on the sheriff's office, that will put the department that has taken massive layoffs under the spotlight.
County Executive Abele is backing the county's move, but it has some wondering - is this payback? The sheriff has lashed out verbally towards those responsible for cuts and whom he says, have forced him to lay off dozens of deputies.
Abele says this is standard practice in county government. "Making sure that money is supposed to be going where it is supposed to be going is good, standard practice, and as taxpayers, you should demand it," Abele said.
Biddle agrees, and says an audit will determine whether cuts were justified. "Just look at something where he has taken $40,000 to buy new badges. What else have you been doing that is maybe not as high priority as public safety?" Biddle said.
The audit, which is currently underway, could take months. Biddle says if there is nothing to hide, the sheriff shouldn't be worried. "He should answer to the public. He's always talking about transparency with accountability and manning up. He needs to man up and take this audit with a smile, and tell the people of Milwaukee County what he has been doing with his resources," Biddle said.
The audit was approved with the county budget, but it was expanded to include a forfeiture account recently - things like drug money and cars. County supervisors say they have no idea how that money is being spent.
Late Wednesday, Sheriff Clarke commented on the audit. "Every penny we spend is within the guidelines, checked by the Department of Justice and the County Board has no say in how that money is spent, and that bothers them. We're not hiding anything here," Sheriff Clarke said.
Sheriff Clarke sat down with FOX6 News Wednesday evening and he says he welcomes an audit of his department, but he questions the County Board's timing. "It's a political tactic, and that's not what audits are for," Sheriff Clarke said.
Sheriff Clarke says the tone of politics in Milwaukee County has become inflammatory, and feels this audit is a personal attack. "It's important to me that the county focus on county problems. I'm not the problem. I'm the sheriff of Milwaukee County. I'm responsible for public safety," Sheriff Clarke said.
Sheriff Clarke recently lashed out against county leaders himself, when budget cuts forced him to lay off dozens of deputies.
In reaction to Supervisor Biddle's comment on Sheriff Clarke spending $40,000 on new badges, Sheriff Clarke said: "Someone's digging this up? You see what this has turned into? And that's what's disappointing - issues from five, six years ago. But in the year I replaced the badges, I turned over a surplus."
Sheriff Clarke says the money in question is federal dollars, and that money came with restrictions. "Here's the biggest rule - it cannot be used to supplant the budget, so you can't use it for overtime, you can't use it for positions, and that's what the County Board is trying to insinuate," Sheriff Clarke said.