Sheriff may face criminal investigation for missing funds

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie could be facing a criminal investigation as a result of a state audit released Monday that found $4,400 in expenses to the Sheriff's Department that could not be accounted for or were prohibited under law.

The State Board of Accounts detailed more than a dozen charges in 2006 to the department's Commissary Fund that it deemed "unallowable." These included $790 for first-class airline tickets for Frisbie, his wife and daughter for a trip to a sheriffs' conference in Orlando, Fla., a $600 limousine tour of Washington, D.C. during a conference for fallen officers, $450 for "I support Sheriff Mark Frisbie" bracelets during campaign season and a $100 tab at Hooters in Nashville, Tenn. for a "business lunch" between Frisbie and his attorney, according to the audit.

Frisbie admits no wrongdoing and chalks the expenses up to "accounting mistakes." He said most of the violations were caused by George Alexander, the former Sheriff's Department manager and grant writer who pleaded guilty last month to stealing nearly $50,000 in federal grant money.

The sheriff said he paid back all of the money auditors said he was responsible for misspending -- $4,352.32 in all. He also plans to change his reimbursement policy for deputies and has taken steps to prevent the discrepancies next year, he added.

But this year's audit findings echoed many of the problems cited by State Board of Accounts inspectors during their audit last year.

Investigation requested

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter sent a letter to Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell on Monday and asked him to open an investigation of Frisbie to determine whether any of the findings in the audit were the result of "criminal wrongdoing."

Bookwalter said the first-class airline tickets were particularly problematic.

State Police Spokesman First Sgt. Dave Bursten said Whitesell had received the prosecutor's request and should determine whether to pursue an investigation today.

Putnam County Commissioner Kristina Warren said the commissioners could not comment on the report, but would review the audit and determine whether they need to convene a special meeting to address the issues it raises.

The expenses

State auditors reviewed the charges made in 2006 to the department's Visa credit card. The Visa bill was paid from the Commissary Fund -- revenue generated from the sale of merchandise to prisoners in the jail -- and found the following misspent funds, according to the audit report:

* The department paid $600 to charter a limousine tour of Washington, D.C. for two families of fallen Indiana police officers and Sheriff's Department employees during a conference for slain members of law enforcement.

* Frisbie purchased three first-class plane tickets to the 2006 National Sheriff's Association Conference in Orlando, Fla. The tickets were for himself, his wife and his daughter and cost a total of nearly $800. The cost to bump the tickets up to first class was $300.

* Eight purchases of flowers were made for a total of $400.

* Frisbie reimbursed himself for five meal purchases that were made in addition to his daily meal allotment. These included a $70 tab at the Crabhouse restaurant and $225 at the Chophouse restaurant, both in Orlando, Fla., and an $80 tab the Washington D.C. Hilton Lobby Bar.

* During the sheriff's re-election campaign, the department paid $450 for promotional items such as silicon bracelets with the phrase, "I support Sheriff Mark Frisbie."

* About $350 was used to pay for registration fees for Frisbie's wife and the wife of one of his deputies.

The report also reprimanded Frisbie for finding that 31 of the 70 Visa charges in 2006 did not have accompanying receipts. This problem was also documented in the department's last audit when inspectors could not find receipts for 40 percent of the charges listed. The violations the State Board of Accounts for this year include:

* Frisbie could not account for two retail purchases for $32, one at the Airport Magic Shop and one at Paradies.

* Deputies charged $170 to the department's credit card for a hotel stay after the conference they were attending ended.

* Several food purchases were reimbursed without accompanying receipts -- three orders from Anthony's Pizzeria in Greencastle for a total of $250, a Hilton Lobby Bar tab for $65 and a $100 bill at Hooters in Nashville, Tenn.

* A $350 purchase from a Dell catalog that had no invoice with it.

Frisbie's response

In an interview with the BannerGraphic Monday, Frisbie said the issues pointed out in the audit came out of either honest mistakes or unauthorized charges Alexander incurred as he ran the department.

He did, however, say he is responsible for the mistakes, since he oversees the money.

The State Board of Accounts included an itemized rebuttal the sheriff submitted that attempts to explain or refute most of the audit's findings.

Frisbie said Alexander used the department's credit card to order the limousine and the flowers, as well as some of the food charges that auditors redflagged.

Frisbie said he rode in the limousine, but only to get from one hotel to another and he did not know Alexander had used the department's credit card to pay for it.

As for the plane tickets, the sheriff said he intended all along to reimburse the department for their cost, he just forgot. The conference took place in June 2006.

Frisbie, however, defended the money he spent on his wife since she works as a volunteer jail matron.

The $100 Hooters bill came from a business lunch he had with his State Fraternal Order of Police attorney, he said.

The solution

As a result of the audit, Frisbie said he intends to enact three major policy changes to help prevent some of the problems the State Board of Accounts found:

* Frisbie will no longer reimburse employees for expense they incur unless they have a receipt or invoice to go along with their purchases.

* Employees will only be allowed to use their credit cards while they are on training trips or at conferences.

* The sheriff has vowed to look over the Commissary Fund expenditures every month.

George Alexander

The audit also found nearly $65,000 in federal grant money and county funds that Alexander allegedly stole.

This includes billing for property the department never received and double billing -- as well as the $50,000 in grant money he pled guilty to stealing.

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  • The Solution: Resign

    -- Posted by CdaleResident on Mon, Dec 17, 2007, at 11:52 PM
  • George was a bad,bad boy for what he did, and i hope Mr.frisbe isn't putting all the blame for all the bad paper work on him.I'm pretty good at reading and math skills.I wonder if I put my application in the sherrifs department, if they would hire me as a book keeper. I really need a job. But for the most part, i think mark is a good sherrif.I did vote on him.But if I did get on the department,my only qustion is, would they give me a credit card?

    -- Posted by billy b on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 12:08 AM
  • Ouch! What are the consequences for this?

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 5:49 AM
  • There should'nt be any personal use of the company credit card to begin with. Does he send all jail volunteers flowers? I helped direct traffic after an accident and didn't even get a thank you.

    -- Posted by mad-mom on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 6:15 AM
  • Mr. Frisbie is a great sheriff and role model. I really hope he is not guilty of wrongfully using funds. And I really hope that he is not passing blame on others.

    -- Posted by Hungry&Fat on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 6:34 AM
  • We felt like all along the finger would finally point to the top dog!!! who else is responsible , just like here in Roachdale.Our town board wants to hang Jennifer out to focus on instead of owning up to bad business. The same with the sheriff!!!!!

    -- Posted by tlwalways beenhere on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 7:04 AM
  • I guess the timing would be critical as to when he re-paid the money.

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 7:12 AM
  • Attacking Frisbie is not a solution. This article has tried to imply his guilt...what happend to innocent before being proven guilty? Alexander did a number on the department and this community. Frisbie's mistake was trusting Alexander! Mark has given and given to this community. We should be thankful for him...not attack him!

    -- Posted by icare on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 8:02 AM
  • The Cloverdale Town Council should take a LONG look at the visa records for the police dept. That is, if they can get their hands on them. Kinda doubt it!! They probably could use a new paper shredder by now,,,,,

    -- Posted by captain crunch on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:20 AM
  • I read with laughter the comment by Mr. Frisbie that most of the violations were caused by George Alexander. I bet if you check the claims that were submitted to the commissioners, you'll see Mr. Frisbie's signature on them. And if you don't, you should. Do the commissioners look over these or do they just say All in favor of paying the claims. "I". Folks, let's start cleaning house from the courthouse employees, commissioners, sheriff Building and planning and so forth. Yee haw Putnam County. If we can't be known for something positive, let's just be known for all of the idiots that we have in office.

    -- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:36 AM
  • And oh yeah, I like to Hooter Bill. What in the world could you eat at Hooters and get charged $100.00.

    -- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:38 AM
  • Looks like the problems at the Sheriff's Dept are wide spread! Sounds to me like he is just trying to blame everything on Mr. Alexander. Now, it seems he didnt know what was going on within his own department, or with any of the funds? How can this be? How can you justify flowers and a limo ride? What other funds are missing or misused? Looks like this may just be the tip of the ice berg!

    -- Posted by QueenBee on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:38 AM
  • I guess Mark took a page for our Pres. Bush, the buck stops here unless your in trouble, then it's someone eles fault or I didn't ask.

    You would think someone who has two jobs would be able to pay for his own flowers, and why would the sheriff's office pay for his wife and daughter's air tickets to go to a conference? And who paided for the daughter's room at the conference? And as for the policy changes, kind of like closing the barn door after the horse is out.

    -- Posted by on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:49 AM
  • Don't start saying the Banner did the Sheriff in. If icare read the same article as I did then you read Mr. Frisbie chance to speak and defend the claims.

    -- Posted by mad-mom on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 10:56 AM
  • I don't believe our sheriff is a good role model or free from blame. I have thought for a long time that he was not doing good--maybe even criminal acts, but never heard anyone speak out about them and investigate them. Remember, drunk driving in Amo, getting physical with an attorney in the courthouse, etc? Now, we see extravagant use of tax payer dollars, taxes funding campaign expenses, and the guy in charge blaming someone else. Its convenient that Mr. Alexander already admitted to wrongdoing and has no credibility--the perfect scapegoat! I think we not only need a new sheriff, but also a total change in leadership at the courthouse--from the commissioners to the recorder, to the auditor, to the clerk, and so forth.

    -- Posted by Neighbor on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 11:41 AM
  • I'm so glad Putnam County government offices are being looked at, they have been getting by with too much for too long. They should be investigated from top to bottom then the real criminals would be in jail.

    -- Posted by charpo on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 12:06 PM
  • Looks like more people should have listend to Tom Helmer during his campaign when he pointed out the excessive spending by Sheriff Frisbie. You mean to say Frisbie couldn't settle with a cab, he had to get a limo. Sounds like he needs to realize he is not worthy of such luxury. You'd think with the Sheiff's salary the department wouldn't need to pay for limo rides, flowers, and a "business lunch" at Hooters. Mark Frisbie has robbed the tax payers of Putnam County Long enough, its about time for him to be held accountable for his wrongdoings, and stop blaiming everyone but himself. The Sheriff is supposed to be a leader, and manage his department. What was Frisbie doing while George Alexander was stealing nearly $50,000? Or did Frisbie know all along. Frisbie's mistake was not trusting Alexander, it was alowing it to happen. An honest man, and honest Sheriff wouldn't have let such things take place. Mark Frisbie should ba ashamed of himself.

    -- Posted by PutnamResident on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 1:27 PM
  • The department would have been better off taking highway seizure money from the drug dealers. That way they could have paid cash for everything and let the tax dollars stay in the community. Now we have to live through yet another scandal in our county.

    I agree with mad-mom, nothing to blame on the Banner, Zennie put it all out there like it is. He even got an interview with Mark printed.

    ""And as for the policy changes, kind of like closing the barn door after the horse is out.""

    Nice cliche Sharon, haven't heard that one before. The solution stated in this article should have been policy to start with.

    this comment has been submitted without any research, fact sources, or permission from any self proclaimed port of authority. any readers who find this comment offensive should either turn me in to the federal bureau of smart alecs or just move on with your life.(unless you really love me)

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 4:32 PM
  • wow are a true coward - attacking the Sheriff's wife when you have no clues to the facts...atta boy - keep reading the Star mag...

    -- Posted by guardian_putnam on Tue, Dec 18, 2007, at 9:39 PM
  • there was no attack on anybody , i call them how i see them. wrong is wrong.if you have ur hand in the cookie jar it should be smacked as well as anyone else.

    -- Posted by victory on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 6:30 AM
  • Money is easy to spend when it abundant. The Sheriff might as well have some fun too! 4 school districts waste alot more.

    -- Posted by farmer on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 9:17 PM
  • 10-4 on that farmer!

    -- Posted by sarasmiles on Wed, Dec 19, 2007, at 10:02 PM
  • guardian_putnam , don,t know where you get coward.. i know some facts . i wasn't attacking his wife , i know where he comes from when you want the best things for your family and have a credit card to use to get it ,oh he didn't have to pay it back .he admitted to the $4400 and paid it back . saying I forgot a $800 bill . wake up! you have the nerve to call me coward without the facts about me, and you stand up for theives, that admit they are. what does that make you?

    -- Posted by victory on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 11:56 AM
  • Well there is a great thing about this country we live in, it's called democracy. So make sure you're all registered to vote for the next election, and do something about all of this. If you don't vote, move to mexico, or canada, or someplace we don't have to deal with you.

    -- Posted by JustinH on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 3:50 PM
  • I've been following this story since it started and in my opinion-if Mark wasn't aware that nearly 50,000 was misused, then he wasn't doing his job. I think its very likely that he Alexander spent the funds with Mark's approval. You don't go to Florida without your wallet or own credit cards so why didn't he use his own money to upgrade the seats? He conveniently forgot that he done this and that he owed this money until HE GOT CAUGHT! OF COURSE HE PAID IT BACK ONCE HE WAS CAUGHT - what else would he do? Mark needs to resign. Maybe if he was behind bars he wouldn't think he's better than the rest of us in the county. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MARK AND OTHERS SITTING BEHIND BARS RIGHT NOW IS THAT THEY GOT CAUGHT.

    -- Posted by dbltrbl on Thu, Dec 20, 2007, at 6:14 PM
  • And by the way, YES this IS a conspiracy theory. Where is mr frisbies not guilty until proven innocent?? hehe. Why of course the same place the rest of ours is, as there is no string pullin goin on here. I would love to hear one of your favored friends explain to the same young people why it is unfolding just as I said it would. I will tell you why. Cause I am WAYYYYYYYYYYYY Out there!!! Go have another drink. Pathetic. I would like to know the number of lives destroyed by this community and their so called officials. Officially the most corrupt maybe but if you do too much to change things and step on their pockets too badly you will find yourself sitting in his jail with no bond for something they mix up as freely as their drinks. True sad story. But I guess someone had to have broad shoulders and get the ball rollin. You know in the State of Indiana there have been National organizations that have done research. It was found that Putnam County was one of the most corrupt counties in the whole State. Bravo. I would want to put that on my resume that I am the best at being a criminal legally that works in the dark. Come on out of the shadows. there is no more hiding. HE is here ^ THE ONE. THE ONLY ALMIGHTY ONE. And there is none that can beat Him. He knows all and promised me He would take care of this.

    -- Posted by sADcOMMUNITY on Fri, Dec 21, 2007, at 10:39 AM
  • I wonder if Mark Frisbe drinks and drives while on his motorcycle rides? Wonder why the prosecutors attacking him now?Does people really forget to pay back that kind of money ?( I think NOT ) I'm glad I didn't Vote for him.

    Just what kind of lunch at Hooters do you buy with $100.00? ( Hmmmm )

    Now I wonder what happened to a Money Order that was sent to the Sheriff dept.for commissary

    that couldn't be found.Maybe we should have a trace put on it now to find out what happened to it.I wonder how many more were lost in the mail? Its a sad day when we have public officials that has to be investigated, especially when they are elected to prevent this very thing from happening to the public. I think its about time that the tax payers demand a full investigation of the public officials---(Starting at the top.) I guess when you step on someones toes you have to watch who's toes you step on. And for the rest of the people who commented on this, "HURRAY FOR YOU" its about time that someone is watching what's going on in this county.Now we need somebody to do something about it.

    I think we need to remember this and vote accordingly if we can't get the ones involved in corruption to resign.

    Oh, one other thing. Can anyone borrow money from the sheriff department funds and take their family to Florida for a vacation and forget to pay it back? B.S.

    Hope he gets what Alexander got.

    -- Posted by cmlandscape on Fri, Dec 21, 2007, at 9:38 PM
  • did they ever figure out who was taking the drugs from the evidence room??? drugs&money??

    -- Posted by badboy46120 on Sat, Dec 22, 2007, at 6:06 PM
  • Resign and face the music like anyone else would have to.

    -- Posted by peace2019 on Sat, Dec 22, 2007, at 8:07 PM
  • This sure is a black eye on our Community, why can't people in office be honest, and not take what isn't theirs to take, the entire courthouse who pay these bills should be investigated, if they were paid without receipts then the state auditor needs to step in and do something about who signed for them to be paid. Like the Auditors office and the commissioners

    -- Posted by whatno_guessing on Sat, Dec 22, 2007, at 8:50 PM
  • mark i hope you're not caught up in this mess!

    unless mark has made a drastic change i can't believe what i'm reading, mark was the only deputy that would stand up for what he believed in, when it came to not kissing bottom on richard, he is/was honest and a hard working law enforcement officer!

    mark stand tall and if there is something done be the man you are and face the music and if this is nonsense don't cave. i know that pcso has a way of turning on anyone for their personal gain!

    good luck mark, i know you'll do the right thing.

    -- Posted by gottokno on Sun, Dec 23, 2007, at 7:13 PM
  • I think the residents of Putnam County should demand that this person be relieved of his job untill this is resolved. We don't need any cover ups.

    -- Posted by cmlandscape on Mon, Dec 24, 2007, at 1:17 PM
  • I do not understand why Mark ran against Tom in the first place. Tom did a wonderful job as sheriff and was always fair. He made some mistakes, we all do. We are all humans and not a one of us will ever be perfect. Look at all the hurt Mark has brought that county. Once a county I called home, it breaks my heart. Mark should be put on administrative leave until this investigation unfolds. That seems fair, given what he is being investigated for. How does a sheriff or at least the matron not know 50 thousand dollars is just missing? How did this happen? In my mind, George was the fall guy for a much bigger fish, or bigger fishies. I will just wait to see what the investigation unearths. I am pretty sure I already know.

    -- Posted by cmg071580 on Thu, Dec 27, 2007, at 7:45 AM
  • Oh, the charmed life of Putnam County, where the only mud that can be slung is four or five thousand dollars that were "possibly" misappropriated but have been covered with a surety check by the suspect just in case he may have made a mistake. Some people say that his actions of covering the funds is an admission of guilt, I think it's an act of confidence that he will be exhonerated and a demonstration that if he made a mistake, financial desperation didn't drive him to "steal" the money in the first place. Could it be that you all want him gone because of his affiliations with the biker community? Did you or someone you know get busted by his department and good ol' boy politics didn't get you out of it this time or is it petty jealousy from an incident in high school? Mark's provided excellent service to this community. I believe that the decimal point would have to be several more zeros to the right before he would be tempted to jeapardize his career. I'm gonna have to go with "presumed innocent until proven guilty" on this one.

    -- Posted by westforty on Thu, Dec 27, 2007, at 10:17 AM
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