Woodman, Republican candidate for Summit County Sheriff, fires back on critical audit
Republican candidate for Summit County Sheriff Derek Woodman has doubled down on claims that a recent audit that was critical of his policies as undersheriff was politically motivated. In a letter to the Summit Daily, he blasted his opponent, interim Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, and county manager Scott Vargo, saying that in their haste to deliver a blow to Woodman’s candidacy they released un-redacted names of undercover deputies.
Vargo, who was involved in the decision to conduct the audit, denied that it was political, adding that his office had not considered redactions because undercover operations had ended by 2009. FitzSimons said he was not part of the process in any way and that the audit was county business.
Woodman was tapped as Republican candidate for sheriff in April after his former boss, John Minor, announced he was stepping down. But county commissioners unanimously picked FitzSimons as sheriff, who in turn fired Woodman, citing a precedent that political opponents of the sheriff shouldn’t also serve as deputies.
Well before the shake-up, however, Minor suggested county officials conduct an audit of the sheriff’s office as a routine part of the transition of power. That audit, which Vargo provided upon request from the Summit Daily two weeks ago, was critical of some of Woodman’s policies and accounting practices as undersheriff.
The audit, which the Daily published online on Oct. 7, contained records from a black ledger found in Woodman’s office that listed names of deputies receiving undercover money. The Daily redacted the names from that document, but not a separate spreadsheet listing expenditures from the task force’s general fund. On Oct. 9, the Daily redacted those names as well, per Woodman’s request.
In his letter, Woodman accused FitzSimons of failing to redact the documents before handing them over to the forensic auditor, and Vargo of failing to do so before providing the report to the Daily.
“Vargo and FitzSimons were in such haste to release the audit report that they acted unethically, recklessly and unprofessionally, putting agents and their families in a dangerous situation,” he wrote.
He added that at least one of the deputies whose name was listed online for several days is still assigned to a unit in Colorado that does undercover work.
The black ledger lists cash that went to deputies, but corresponding documentation of how it was ultimately spent is spotty. The audit indicates that between 1998 and 2009, $39,553.06 in drug force task force money administered by Woodman was unaccounted for.
Woodman said this is because receipts for undercover money often went in case files, which are destroyed every 10 years. He said he told the auditor this during an interview but thinks there wasn’t follow-up. He acknowledged that years’ worth of receipts have already been destroyed.
FitzSimons denied any involvement with the audit, saying his undersheriff, Joel Cochrane, was responsible for facilitating it. Cochrane said that he and his deputies merely handed over documents found in Woodman’s office that appeared to be financial.
Vargo said that FitzSimons was not involved in either the content of the audit or the decision to release it. He added that he did not necessarily expect the Daily to publish the report in full.
“It really didn’t occur to me or any of us internally about redacting,” he said. “Most of it was pretty well dated. The operations for the drug task force ended in 2009, so that wasn’t really a concern for us.”
He added that undercover work was limited in the task force, and participating officers still made arrests, testified as police in court and lived normal lives within the community.
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