Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle blames a lack of transparency for his predecessor’s alleged misuse of a county issued credit card.
Michael Harn now faces criminal charges after an internal audit of the sheriff’s department. Special prosecutors have charged him with two counts of felony theft, following a more than a year long investigation by the Illinois State Police.
“A lot of it stemmed from lack of record keeping and transparency in the office,” said VanVickle.
The Illinois State’s Attorney’s Special Prosecution Unit conducted an audit shortly before Harn lost his re-election bid in 2014. The audit revealed improper credit card usage, prompting ISP to conduct an independent criminal investigation.
“We realized something pretty significant had been going on,” said VanVickle. “At that time, we asked ISP to come in and take an unbiased look at the case.”
The investigation revealed Harn purchased goods and services for personal use with the county credit card, including: electronics, clothing, weapons, adult novelty items, and car maintenance. A special prosecutor is now taking over the case.
“Our office is not prosecuting the case,” said Ogle County State’s Attorney Eric Morrow. “When this investigation was initiated, Mr. Harn was the Sheriff… and it would have created a conflict of interest.”
Special Prosecutor Dave Neal is confident the charges will lead to a conviction.
“We will not file a case of this nature unless we have a high degree of evidence in the case,” said Neal. “Our ability to move forward and prove this case beyond reasonable doubt.”
Residents in Ogle County are still coming to grips that the man they elected to enforce the law is now charged with breaking it.
“These are people we are supposed to trust,” said resident Chris Corcoran. “It saddened me that we have come to this.”
“I’m very disappointed,” said Earl Thomas. “Her certainly had a position of public trust and if they allegations are true he has disappointed a lot of people.”
The State’s Attorney’s Office says the total cost of the items bought on the county credit card is less than $10,000. Harn is expected to appear in court November 10th.