Sheriff accused of misusing Van Buren funds

PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Van Buren County commissioners say Sheriff Dale Gribler disregarded county purchasing practices — and they say they would oust him if they could.

Following an extensive review of his county purchases, county commissioners said Gribler has “discredited” to his office.

“If the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners had the power and authority to do so, you would be removed from office immediately,” concludes a letter dated Feb. 11 from commissioners to Gribler, obtained by 24 Hour News 8.

The board alleges that in August 2013, Gribler used a county credit card to buy four suits for $1,371.91. Three of those suits were size 46 and one a size 41. The size 41 suit was later picked up at Joseph A. Bank by Gribler’s son for his use, the letter says.

Gribler does have a $600 per year allowance for uniforms, but that does not allow for purchase of personal-use items or items that would be used as gifts, the letter says.

And, commissioners say, Gribler lied to them about who the size 41 suit was for.

“Your refusal to tell the truth demonstrates a lack of integrity and respect for the governance of this county. You should be ashamed of your behavior,” the letter reads.

The commissioners also say that during 2013, Gribler bought a flat-screen TV, a digital camera and a microwave oven from ABC Warehouse –  all from sales person Gregory Gribler. He is the sheriff’s son.

The commission does not allege that those purchases — totaling more than $1,300 — were for personal use. Rather, it says they constitute a conflict of interest Gribler should have recognized.

“Stop this practice immediately,” the letter demands.

Finally, the commission says investigation revealed that Gribler had spent more than $62,000 from three funds that had total budgets of $1,000.

“You used this account as your own ‘slush fund’, bypassing the County Administrator and the Board of Commissioners in the procurement process,” the letter says. “By your actions, you have demonstrated complete disregard and lack of respect for county procurement policies and procedures.  This must change.”

The issue was investigated by Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. He concluded Gribler showed “bad judgment,” but declined to press charges.

In the letter, the board said it was “dismayed” and “disgusted” by that decision.

“After all, the Van Buren County Jail is full of inmates who demonstrated “Bad Judgment” in the execution of their lives. Why should you as the Sheriff of this county be immune from prosecution in this matter?” the letter reads.

“As the County Sheriff and one of the two top law enforcement officials of this County, you demonstrated a lack of integrity and violated the sacred principle of “Public Trust”. Your actions have embarrassed the County of Van Buren and brought discredit to you and your office,” the letter continues. “You should carefully consider your options for the future and make a decision that honors and respects the privilege of further elected public service.”

The commission can’t get rid of Gribler on its own because the office of sheriff is an elected position — one that Gribler has held since 1996. Commissioner Mike Henry told 24 Hour News 8 in a Wednesday evening phone interview that only one solution that will satisfy the board.

“He lied to us. He just did not tell the truth, period. And I expect more, more from the sheriff of this county. The best resolution would be for the sheriff of this county to resign,” Henry said.

Sheriff Gribler did not return a call from 24 Hour News 8 requesting comment Wednesday night.

Inside woodtv.com: Read the full letter from the commissioners to Gribler (pdf)

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