The Tulare County Deputy Sheriff's Association has been cleared of allegations that former officials illegally used union credit cards to make personal purchases, the association said Friday.
The Tulare County District Attorney's Office said Friday its four-month investigation showed that credit cards had been used for both union and personal purchases, but the personal purchases had been or were being repaid.
"There is no evidence of a crime," Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz said.
The union operated without written policies for credit cards, and even when policies were adopted the union "created a rule that still allows personal use if money is paid back," Fultz said.
Financial records going back to 2007 show personal purchases being repaid, and though it's not clear whether all the money has been repaid, no evidence exists of "criminal intent" not to repay money owed, Fultz said.
But the report is not being made public on grounds that it is "attorney work product," Fultz said. Copies were given to Visalia police, the Sheriff's Department and the Deputy Sheriff's Association, he said.
The Deputy Sheriff's Association, which operates a firing range and represents deputies and sergeants in labor negotiations, said in a statement that it sought an official investigation after an internal audit raised questions about potential misuse of credit cards.
Now that an "unbiased outside agency" found no wrongdoing, the association considers the matter "finalized and closed," a statement said.
Retired undersheriff David Whaley, running for Tulare County sheriff in the June 6 primary, last year charged that rumors of union credit card misuse were hurting morale inside the department.
The investigation "needed to be done so the department can heal and get on with business," he said Friday. "I'm glad it was done."
But more than $20,000 remains to be repaid, he said.
Acting Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, running for election, said Friday that the Deputy Sheriff's Association is a separate entity not controlled by the Sheriff's Department.
"It's a union matter" on how they manage their own affairs, he said.
"The investigation was based on facts and not allegations," Boudreaux said. "I'm pleased it was completed.
Fultz said he consulted the Attorney General's Office and other official experts in public corruption, and all agreed that no evidence of wrongdoing was uncovered.
In some cases, what appeared to be personal purchases really weren't, he said. Tickets to a country and western concert were for as a raffle prize, and TVs were bought for the firing range and a fundraiser, he said.
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