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Sheriff: Bills were corrected, not altered

Changes were to remove personal purchases

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn

OREGON – Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn says his personal charges on his county-issued credit card were deleted from invoices because he never intended for the county to pay for them.

His comments echoed those made earlier by County Board Chairman Kim Gouker, who had said he saw nothing fraudulent about alterations made to the credit card bills.

Copies of the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department’s credit card bills were obtained by Sauk Valley Media through a Freedom of Information Act request. On Dec. 28, Sauk Valley Media reported that since 2011, at least three bills had been altered to change the month’s balance or to remove charges.

The charges were personal purchases that had been paid directly to the credit card company.

“I corrected my statements before I ever turned them in to the clerk’s office,” Harn said Tuesday, adding that he didn’t think he was covering up anything “because those things were paid for previously.”

At the time, Ogle County didn’t have a countywide credit card policy. Each department with a credit card set its own policy. The county has since established a countywide policy.

In December, Gouker said he was aware of the changes to the bills, but didn’t think it was fraudulent or done to cover up anything, because the county was never going to pay for those charges.

Harn was aware of personal purchases being made on the county cards, but wasn’t aware of all of them, he said, adding that it was a policy in place before he was elected in 2010.

The practice was stopped, Harn said, after personal purchases by former Dixon City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen came to light.

Ortgiesen charged $13,521 on Dixon credit cards between April 2007 and May 2013, but didn’t pay the credit card company directly and didn’t pay back the charges in full until he resigned In April 2013.

The personal purchases in Ogle County didn’t happen very often, Harn said, and were paid directly to the credit card company before the county paid the balance of the bill. The changes to the bill were made to show the amount the county was paying, he said.

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