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Hunt County Sheriff’s ‘Friends’ Fund Questioned

By Arezow Doost, CBS 11 News
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A www.FriendsOfTheSheriff.com banner on a Hunt Co. Sheriff's Office vehicle. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

A http://www.FriendsOfTheSheriff.com banner on a Hunt Co. Sheriff’s Office vehicle. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

GREENVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – The Hunt County town of Greenville is like many small towns with a historic courthouse, quaint downtown and friendly people.

But some now say they question Hunt County’s Sheriff, Randy Meeks.  “I did vote for him,” says Al Quinn, who is a longtime resident “I wouldn’t vote for him again – no never.”

A letter is what has Quinn and many other residents concerned.  It began arriving in the mail last year asking residents for help and for donations.  “I got a letter,” says Quinn “I had no intention to donate what does the sheriff need money?”

In the letter the sheriff wrote he needed money to help train his deputies.  But instead of using money from the sheriff’s operational budget the money would come from donations deposited in a separate account called “Friends of the Sheriff.”

“I gave a check for $2,000,” says Bob Caruth, who helped fund the account several years ago with a former sheriff.  Caruth says the money is supposed to promote community goodwill, buying items like toys and supplies.  “It’s not supposed to go towards training or equipment for them,” says Caruth.

Joel Littlefield, the County’s Attorney, says, “I believe it is breaking the law.”  He sent the sheriff a letter telling him to stop.  “A sheriff cannot solicit or accept donations from people within his jurisdiction or subject to investigation by him,” explains Littlefield.

A website called friendsofthesheriff.com also solicits donations to reward deputies for good work, even saying the money will be used to buy gift cards to a local restaurant so deputies can take their families out to eat.

When CBS 11 News asked the sheriff is there was any wrongdoing with the account his response was, “No.”

When asked if he was aware he couldn’t solicit and ask for donations he said, “I was not.”

Documents obtained by CBS 11 show the sheriff’s office spent money from the “Friends of the Sheriff,” account on a wide range of activities including a scholarship fund named after a deputy’s son, a cash reward to a volunteer, training and even lunches.

“I’m not wild about buying his lunch,” says Caruth.

Littlefield says he warned the sheriff he was breaking the law last May.  Even now, ten months later, the “Friends of the Sheriff,” website hasn’t changed.

And the sheriff is asking for donations on a sign in front of his office.  “That is also a violation of the law, you can’t do it,” explains Littlefield.

In a statement, Sheriff Meeks said, “All solicitations related to the ‘Friends of the Sheriff,’ account have been for charitable or public service oriented purposes.”
It goes on to say those records are available to anyone anytime.

But CBS 11 put in an open records request and more than a month later nothing has been released from the sheriff’s department.

The sheriff won’t say how much has been donated or how much is in the account.  He has stopped trying to raise money for the time being.

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