Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
The ISP interview report of the former Shelby County Sheriff Don Koonce has several missed opportunities to get to the truth. We will point out the misinformation and false representations made during the interview and the lack of follow-up questions by the ISP. The audio recording of these interviews has been withheld by the ISP and we are still fighting in court to get those. A copy of the ISP interviews and other records given to the Attorney General can be downloaded at this link.
- “Koonce has been Sheriff at SCSO for approximately six years. When Koonce took office, he placed Undersheriff Robert McCall in charge of timekeeping responsibilities and submitting payroll for the entire Sheriffs department.”
Did ISP recognize the significance of this claim? Did Koonce throw McCall under the bus? Whatever happened to the department head being responsible?
- “Koonce advised SCSO employees are required to fill out a timesheet.”
The ISP failed to demand Koonce provide those timesheets from the time he took office.
- “Per contract, employees are salaried and are not paid hourly.”
The ISP said nothing about Koonce’s false claim. They were not salaried according to the contract.
- “After Koonce arrived, employees changed from 8 hour shifts to 10 hour shifts ( 4 days on/4 days off).”
The ISP failed to question if the contract permitted such a schedule. Had they read the contract they would have known this was not allowed and could have asked a lot more questions as to how this very change established years of overpayments to deputies totaling at least 11,808 hours paid but not worked.
- “After Koonce arrived, employees changed from 8 hour shifts to 10 hour shifts ( 4 days on/4 days off). After a FOJA request was submitted by the Edgar County Watchdogs and Shelby County Treasurer, Erica Fimhaber, it was learned the shift and hour change resulted in employees occasionally working only 30 hours in a week.”
The ISP could have easily asked why it was a FOIA from anyone that caused them to learn the shift and hour change resulted in employees occasionally working only 30 hours in a week if you were keeping timesheets for all employees as claimed? They should have been able to also see this abuse was not an occasional matter as alleged. Those key points might have rattled his cage and led to other key information.
- “Per contract, Koonce stated he reserves the right to change the shift schedule and hours as he deems necessary”
How special the ISP failed to ask Koonce to provide the place in the contract that supports his claim. The truth is, Koonce never read the contract before signing it as we confirmed with him in our interview early on in our investigation of his actions.
- “Koonce believes the contract needs to be changed so shifts and hours are more concrete.”
Had the ISP been paying attention they would have seen this open door. Sheriff, why would the contract need to be changed if it says you can change the shift schedule and hours as you claimed just a few minutes ago?
- “Although Koonce doesn’t believe the occasional 70-hour pay period violates the contract, he stated they have taken measures and changed the schedule so employees are now working 80 hours in a pay period.”
The ISP appears to have missed the wordsmithing smoke and mirrors statement. This was not about a 70-hour pay period. It was about getting paid for 80 hours when only working 70.
- “Koonce provided a copy of the new employee timesheet”
Where was the ISP questions on this timesheet? When was this specific timesheet implemented? The truth is it was not implemented until after the exposure of this problem, which means the claim they filled out timesheets was not accurate prior to the “new” timesheet being implemented.
- “Overtime is computed on a daily basis, therefore, any hours worked in excess of an employee’s 10 hour shift is eligible for overtime.
Overtime? Why didn’t the ISP nail down on this point after being told these people were salaried, not hourly.
- “Overtime requests must be submitted and approved, they are not automatically generated.”
Submitted by who? Approved by Who? Again, why was overtime being paid if the employees are salaried? Another missed opportunity by the ISP.
“Employees are not allowed to go into the negatives with sick or vacation time.”
How special the ISP failed to review the forensic audit report and then follow up with Koonce’s claim. Had they done so they would have proven Koonce’s statement was false and best, a lie at worst. The auditor confirmed 139 occasions where 23 employees were granted vacation time which resulted in a negative balance. Who do we believe, Koonce or the forensic auditor? The ISP missed another opportunity to turn up the heat.
- “Koonce is unaware of any employees abusing the timekeeping system.”
Just two questions we wish the ISP would have asked. So Sheriff, can you provide us a copy of this “timekeeping” system you have been using since you took office? Are we to understand you don’t see getting paid for 80 hours while only working 70 hours for at least four years running is not abusing the “timekeeping” system?
- “Koonce stated there was a FOIA request submitted by Shelby County Treasurer Erica Fimhaber where there was a misunderstanding of what was requested, but ultimately, all documents were provided.”
Had the ISP followed up with the Treasurer they would have once again been able to see Koonce’s statement was not true. We got different documents than the treasurer even though the request was for the same thing.
- “Koonce told McCall to do whatever Vonderheide advised.” (regarding gun sales)
Vonderheide had no recollection of the conversation in question. Sadly the ISP failed to follow up on this matter to see the inconsistent comments between McCall and Vonderheide. Rather than do what a person advises, how about we do what the law says?
- “Koonce stated it was determined the firearms were technically not allowed to be distributed and sold.”
How special the ISP did not ask how he came to such a determination. The truth is he got caught selling guns in violation of the law when we began our investigation and it was then that the scramble began.
- “Koonce stated he knew it was wrong when he couldn’t find the “paperwork” (judge order) which allowed him to sell the firearms.
Had the ISP actually pursued the truth to the whole story they would have drilled down on this point and found that Koonce only fixed this issue after being unable to produce the requested court order on the disposition of the seized weapons.
- “Originally Koonce included the $25 L&L paperwork fee from the Shop with a Cop Fund reimbursement, but then Koonce gave his own funds to the purchasers to reimburse the Shop with a Cop Fund.”
The ISP has not followed up to verify if Koonce gave his own funds to the purchasers to reimburse the Shop with a Cop fund. We have FOIA’d any such reimbursements and should have a response in a few days. Is anyone placing bets on the truth of Koonce’s statement?
“Koonce stated the Shelby County Board’s law enforcement committee chairman verified all the guns are accounted for.”
Considering the paper trail provided under FOIA is considered to be true and accurate, the questions the ISP missed out on would have opened up pandora’s box. Who was this law enforcement committee chairman that verified this claim? Did the ISP put eyes on all guns in question to verify they were all returned? When were they returned? If prior to the production of the records to us, why did those records point to missing guns from inventory?
- “At a later time, Koonce stated he contacted a potential relative who paid for Davis’ funeral in an effort to properly dispose of the firearms,
however, he has not heard back from the relative.”
Maybe the ISP could let Koonce know that if he were to do as he suggested he would still be violating the law. Seized weapons can not be released to a private person or entity after a conviction, which includes family members.
We went through these matters with the Shelby County Treasurer and you can watch the video below.