Local News

Allegations Of Misused Money Lead To Investigation Of State Agency

Posted May 9, 2003 10:30 a.m. EDT

— The

State Auditor

has collided with the state's long arm of the law.

Allegations of misused taxpayer money led investigators to an agency inside

Crime Control and Public Safety.

Instead of fraud, they found a misunderstanding inside a unique state department.

The State Auditor launched an investigation into

Law Enforcement Support Services

when someone complained that LESS employees were filling up personal vehicles at state expense. It turns out those vehicles were undercover cars for drug buys.

"The answer is we haven't done anything wrong," LESS director Neil Woodcock said. "We didn't intend to do anything wrong. We're not going to do anything wrong."

The auditor did question why LESS employees took the vehicles home without documenting mileage or paying commuter fees, as other state workers are required to do.

Woodcock said his department finds excess military equipment and vehicles and distributes them to law enforcement across the state. He said he asked his employees to drive the cars home to test their worthiness for police.

"We do not feel at all that there was any willful violation of the statutes," Auditor Ralph Campbell said. "It just ended up being one of the areas that is a gray area."

It's a gray area because these are federal, not state-owned, cars.

Woodcock also defended his personal use of a loaded Ford Excursion because, under the Homeland Security Act, he's on call 24 hours a day. In the event of a terrorist attack, LESS could be called upon to load up emergency supplies in the trucks and respond.

"I'm ready to go," Woodcock said.

Despite the gray area, Woodcock said LESS will answer the auditor's call for accountability.

Woodcock said his agency has agreed to create a framework to better document use of their federal vehicles. He may also have to start paying commuter fees for his Excursion.