SUBLETTE COUNTY — Sublette County Sheriff Stephen Haskell was officially charged with five counts related to his purchase of items for the Sheriff’s Office that took place before his swearing in and the cover-up that allegedly took place after the purchase was challenged. He was ordered to turn himself in at the Sweetwater County Detention Center. He was booked and released on $10,000 unsecured bond.
His preliminary hearing is set for February 11th, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. in Circuit Court.
Haskell is quoted in a press release issued by the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office responding to the charges.
According to charging documents filed in the 9th Judicial District Circut Court in Sublette County, the case against Haskell began when the Sublette County Commissioners requested that the Department of Criminal Investigation review Haskell’s decisions to order uniforms and uniform items before he was officially sworn in as Sublette County Sheriff on January 5, 2015.
The Disputed Orders
According to charging documents, Haskell acknowledged that items ordered before the swearing in were his personal responsibility as he did not yet have the authority to place the order. The total price of the items was $11,797.50.
In an interview with Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford, the DCI learned that Lankford had been provided a number of invoices from Skaggs Uniform in Salt Lake City and Creative Culture Insignia located in Ogden Utah for the items that Haskell ordered. Lankford reported that she prepared and submitted the expense report for the monthly County Commissioner’s meeting.
The charging documents state that Haskell represented the invoices listed in the monthly report as being from after his taking office.
The DCI investigator reviewed footage of the County Commissioner’s meeting on January 6th, 2015 and, according to the charging documents, Haskell was questioned by the County Commissioners on why a number of officers of the Sheriff’s Office appeared in new uniforms at Haskell’s swearing in the previous day.
Haskell reportedly agreed that any items bought before his January 5th swearing in would be his personal debt and responsibility. During the meeting, Haskell reportedly denied ordering any other items besides the uniforms seen at the swearing in. He allegedly specifically denied ordered anything else, including badges.
The DCI investigator also reviewed the February 17, 2015, meeting of the County Commissioners where Haskell is specifically questioned by the members of the commission on the timeline of the uniform purchase. He reportedly agrees that any purchases from before his swearing in are his responsibility. Haskell agreed to pay $2,993 for items ordered before the swearing in.
According to the DCI affidavit, allegations of date alteration were brought up at the meeting. The charging document states that Haskell avoided the issue, agreeing again that any items bought before the swearing in would be his responsibility.
The Phone Call
During the course of the investigation, a recording of a call made by Haskell from a Sublette County Sheriff’s Office telephone line to Skaggs Uniform on January 8th or 9th was uncovered. During the call, Haskell reportedly says that the Commissioners are upset that he ordered items before he was sworn in and that he wanted Skaggs to change the date on the invoices to after January 5th, 2016 so that the invoices would be paid by the county.
Follow-up interviews with Skaggs Uniform personnel indicated that the true dates of purchase were November 21, 2014, and December 12, 2014. The dates were allegedly changed to January 5th, 2015.
The email Record
The DCI investigator also cites emails between Haskell and Creative Culture Insignia staff that took place before his swearing in. The vendors reportedly expressed concern that he wasn’t sworn in yet and questioned if payment would be tendered by the county. Haskell reportedly assured the vendors that he had authority from the commission to place the order.
According to the DCI Investigator, Haskell’s representation led the Sublette County Commissioners to pay over $11,000 that the parties had all agreed was owed by Haskell personally, leading to charges against him.
Further, Haskell was also charged with receiving property he should have known was obtained illegally, submitting a false claim or voucher with intent to defraud, performing duty related to the office before taking the oath of office and committed an unauthorized act relating to his official duties that led to his pecuniary (financial) benefit.