DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The attorney general's office took action Friday to remove Dallas County Sheriff Brian Gilbert from office after a state audit revealed possible missing cash, guns, drugs, jewelry and other items from the department's evidence room.
Judge Arthur Gamble set a hearing for Oct. 16.
The petition for removal said Gilbert should be removed for "willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of the office of sheriff, willful misconduct or maladministration in the office of sheriff, and corruption in the office of sheriff."
State Auditor David Vaudt, in a report released Friday, said his office could not determine whether $120,000 taken in a traffic stop on March 15 is missing. Gilbert, 43, was charged with felony theft in the incident and is awaiting a Nov. 13 trial. He has pleaded not guilty and has been free on bond.
Earlier this month a judge ordered him to stay away from the office and the courthouse until his trial, though he still serves as sheriff of the rapidly growing suburban county west of Des Moines.
After the $120,000 was discovered missing, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation asked the state auditor to perform an extensive audit of sheriff's office records.
At an afternoon news conference in the living room of his rural Adel home, Gilbert said the evidence custodian at his office had made errors and he has been replaced by another deputy.
Gilbert said he also has restricted access to the evidence room and has installed video cameras that record evidence room activity around the clock.
Gilbert said there have been serious errors in counting money seized by deputies. In the case for which he is charged, he said deputies at one point had miscounted $20 bills, reporting they had 3,933 bills when a recount showed they had 14,733 - a difference of $216,000.
Gilbert said he discovered the error and told the deputies.
"It's my belief that if I had taken anything from that particular case, would I have stood forward and said, 'You're way off on your counting; you're off by more than $200,000?' I don't think so," he said.
Gilbert said he is taking responsibility for the errors and plans to correct the problems. He said he will fight attempts to remove him from office.
"I was involved in that traffic stop, I participated in it, but I didn't take a dime from that case and I will defend myself through all this process," he said.
The petition for removal, signed by Attorney General Tom Miller, alleges that Gilbert "habitually neglected large sums of cash."
It said Gilbert kept $925,831 in the sheriff's office's property room as of April 10. The money had been taken in various criminal cases dating back to January 2002.
Of the total amount, $876,145 "had no legitimate reason to still be in the possession of the defendant or his office in the evidence room," the petition said.
By keeping the cash, the attorney general alleges Gilbert violated state law that dictates how forfeited money should be handled.
The document also alleges $465 was found in Gilbert's desk drawer with no accounting for where it came from or why it was there.
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It also states that through neglect or refusal, Gilbert failed to properly handle weapons, illegal drugs and other property taken in criminal cases.
Gilbert's attorney, F. Montgomery Brown, was out of the office Friday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Chief Deputy Kevin Frederick, who is handling the day-to-day operations of the department, said he is reviewing the audit.
"I just would say that the Dallas County sheriff's office is going to work with the Dallas County attorney's office and make every effort to make any corrections or any adjustments in procedural matters and go from there."
Frederick said several procedural changes have already been implemented.
Vaudt said none of the records at the sheriff's office include the $120,000 in missing cash and therefore that issue was not included in the audit.
He did find numerous inconsistencies in the sheriff's office's record keeping, including:
-20 cases in which $60,765 in cash could not be accounted for because of variations in documentation.
-Five cases in which documents indicate weapons were seized. The weapons could not be located and evidence control records did not document them.
-13 cases where an unexplained variance exists between drugs inventoried and documentation in the case files or evidence records.
-15 cases in where items, including household goods, jewelry, clothing and drug paraphernalia, could not be accounted for because of incomplete records.
-62 cases for which case files could not be located.
Vaudt's audit said Gilbert deposited $16,142 into personal bank accounts between Jan. 1, 2002, and March 31, 2006. There were cash purchases or payments of $13,905 made by Gilbert or his wife.
"We were unable to identify the source of the cash used to make the deposits and purchases," Vaudt's audit said. "We also were unable to determine if any additional cash purchases were made."
Vaudt said documentation maintained by the sheriff's office was not adequate to determine the disposition of all property seized. The report said the sheriff's office needs to strengthen controls of the property and evidence room and improve documentation of related case files and evidence control sheets.
Most elected officials in Iowa can only be removed from office at the order of a judge through a procedure that requires a finding of maladministration, corruption or other failures.
The procedure was last used in 2004, when a district court judge removed the Cass County sheriff and attorney from office.