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DA requests audit of alleged overpayments to Grady County officials

Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks, center [The Oklahoman archives]
Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks, center [The Oklahoman archives]

CHICKASHA — A special state investigative audit has been requested into allegations that Grady County elected officials have been overpaid for years, Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks confirmed Wednesday.

The salary overpayments are believed to be as much as $20,000 each per year, Hicks said, adding that the Grady County Excise Board took action Tuesday to cut the salaries of the county's eight elected officials from about $80,000 a year to about $60,000 a year.

Receiving the overpayments and subsequent salary cuts were Grady County's three county commissioners, sheriff, treasurer, county clerk, court clerk and assessor, he indicated.

There have been salary increases over the years, so the amount of overpayments would not be the same for each year, Hicks said.

"It's quite a shock to everybody," said Grady County Commission Chairman Windle Hardy, adding that county officials have been asked to refer questions to the district attorney while the investigation is pending.

Hicks said the overpayments apparently came to light because of questions asked by an excise board member.

Hicks said he was informed of the alleged overpayments Tuesday afternoon and his first thought was to call the state auditor.

"I want to know exactly how much it is, exactly how much each county official was overpaid and how far back it goes," he said. "I was advised it may go back as far as 2008 or 2009."

Any decision regarding potential reimbursements would depend on the auditor's findings, he said.

Hicks sent an email to State Auditor Gary Jones Wednesday, authorizing state auditors to not only look into the salaries paid to Grady County elected officials, but other county employees, as well.

"I do not want to limit the inquiry to their salaries only," Hicks wrote. "If there are other irregularities brought to the attention of the auditor assigned to the investigation, I would request those salaries be scrutinized also."

The state auditor said the salaries that elected county officers are authorized to receive are determined by a complex formula that is tied to property tax revenue.

Jones said he already had auditors working in Grady County when he received the district attorney's request, and he will have them expand their work to look into the new issues that have been raised.

Hicks said it hasn't been determined whether the overpayments were intentional or a miscalculation.

"I think there are a lot of decisions that will have to be made going forward, but I really can't make any of those or even comment on them until I've got the report laying on my desk from the auditor's office outlining the amounts and the people responsible for the overpayments," he said.

Hicks said after the state auditor's office concludes its audit, he'll determine whether a criminal inquiry is needed.

"There's really not a whole lot else I can say, because we just don't know exactly the extent of the problems that have gone on," Hicks said.

Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›