Prosecutor: No evidence Gribler had ‘criminal intent’

PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — An independent prosecutor declined to bring criminal charges against Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler despite serious allegations by county commissioners.

“There just wasn’t sufficient evidence of any criminal intent in this case,” Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz told 24 Hour News 8.

In a letter to Gribler that can be described only as scathing, the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners alleges he misused county funds.

Inside Read the full letter from the commissioners to Gribler (pdf)

Fitz was assigned the task of determining whether those allegations warranted criminal charges by Michigan’s Attorney General’s Office.

The letters says Gribler bought suits with a county credit card and that one of them was for his son. And they say he lied about it when questioned.

Other allegations include Gribler’s use of three county funds as “slush funds” that commissioners say he mismanaged by tens of thousands of dollars. They also say he purchased items for county use from his son, which they say constitutes a conflict of interest.

The prosecutor said all of that may be true, but it does not mean a crime was committed.

“Was there perhaps bungling? Were there perhaps things done that were not the wisest way to handle finances and budgets? I think that is probably true, but again, bad judgment does not equate to criminal intent,” Fitz told 24 Hour News 8 in a Thursday phone interview.

The letter also expresses the commissioners’ “dismay” and “disgust” that Fitz did not recommend charges. He said the commissioners’ letter was the first he heard of their disapproval of his decision.

“I do understand their frustration, but again I always think the best way , if you are dissatisfied with somebody, is to man up and talk to them in person,” Fitz said.

24 Hour News 8 left a message with Gribler’s office for comment Wednesday but did not receive a response. He was not home when 24 Hour News 8 went to his house Thursday seeking comment.

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