CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gauley Bridge police falsified driving under the influence warning citations submitted to a state highway safety program, according to an audit of the town's accounting practices.The audit was released earlier this month and sheds light on records and citations seized by the West Virginia State Police in early 2011.According to the State Auditor's Office, Gauley Bridge officials displayed a "deficiency in internal control" when it came to monitoring records sent to the Southern Regional Highway Safety Office program from June 2010 to June 2011. The Beckley-based program provides funding to local police agencies for DUI enforcement patrols, DUI checkpoints and other safety-related patrolling.Gauley Bridge police created "duplicative and inaccurate" warning citations of purported DUI traffic stops, according to the audit.
The audit noted that falsifying state records is a felony punishable by up to one year and no more than 10 years in prison. The audit does not name officers who might have falsified the records.Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris said in February that his office was cooperating with the State Police in a records investigation.Neither Harris nor State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous would say what records were being scrutinized.Gauley Bridge Mayor Byron Winebrenner said he never inquired about the investigation because it occurred under former Mayor Stephanie Fout. Fout did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.
Gauley Bridge officials promised to "strengthen internal controls to thoroughly review any and all documentation prior to submitting to prior outside grantor agencies," according to the audit.Gauley Bridge police Chief Shawn Whipkey resigned to work as a coal miner shortly after a Gazette-Mail reporter began writing about the State Police's investigation in February.Winebrenner refused to answer questions about Whipkey and criticized reporters for giving Gauley Bridge a reputation as a "speed trap."In 2002, Gauley Bridge reported registering 28 speeding ticket convictions with the Division of Motor Vehicles for the entire year. That number rose to 268 the following year, after Whipkey joined the force in December 2002.The town took in $322,814, about 50 percent of its revenue, from speeding citations, according to the audit.The audit also found that the town didn't properly maintain the municipal court docket to record dispositions of all traffic citations. As a result, some cases were not properly judged and the municipality did not receive a portion of revenue from the police citations.Officials said that because of the State Police investigation, all citations were confiscated and are being kept and filed in proper order.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.