Formal charges brought against Sheriff
by Sublette County Sheriff’s Office
January 19, 2016
(Sublette County, Wyo – Jan 19, 2016) On January 19, formal charges were brought against Sheriff Stephen R. Haskell of Sublette County, alleging that he violated state statutes when he ordered new uniforms and badges prior to taking the oath of office for his position as Sheriff. The charges, which include allegations of obtaining property by false pretense, wrongful taking or disposing of property, submitting false claim or voucher, unlawfully performing duties related to his office prior to taking office, and "intent to obtain a pecuniary benefit, commit an unauthorized act relating to his official duties or did violate any statute related to his official duties," comes just one week prior to court proceedings pertaining to the Writ of Mandamus that Sheriff Haskell filed against Sublette County Clerk, Mary Lankford.
In an affidavit filed by Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations Agent Brad Wnuk, it is alleged that Sublette County paid a "personal debt of Stephen Haskell for more than $11,000." These debts were incurred when Sheriff Haskell, then Sheriff-elect, ordered new uniforms, patches and badges for the Sheriff’s Office. It further alleges that during a phone call to one of the vendors, "he wanted Skaggs to change the dates on the order so that the invoices would show the items were ordered after January 5, 2015," the date when he was sworn in.
The affidavit, signed by Judge James L. Radda of Teton County, and filed in Sublette County, ordered for the immediate arrest of Sheriff Haskell. In response, Haskell immediately turned himself into the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office where he was booked and released on bond.
"I am completely blindsided by these allegations and charges," Sheriff Haskell said. "I am dismayed that my fellow elected officials have gone back on their word regarding this matter. I have been very forthright and honest with them from the beginning and I have been met with hostility at every turn. I suppose this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I look forward to working through the judicial process in this regard and being cleared."
In August, Sheriff Haskell filed a Writ of Mandamus seeking judicial intervention to prevent Clerk Lankford from making administrative decisions concerning the Sheriff’s Office. Less than two weeks later, Sheriff Haskell was questioned by DCI agents about the uniforms he had ordered, a matter that he believed to have been resolved at the February 17, 2015 commissioner meeting, when he agreed to pay for approximately $3000 worth of uniforms and equipment. Also during that meeting, it was stated by Commissioner Joel Bouseman, "I think in this case we could probably justify the fact that there was no wrongdoing here, because that equipment was used by law enforcement." That sentiment was also reiterated by Commissioner Chair Andy Nelson when he said, "With no misappropriation, there was no misappropriate of what you did, what you bought was for the Sheriff’s Office... Okay. So there is no misappropriation." Those feelings apparently changed when a letter, signed by the commissioners, was later sent to DCI, asking them to investigate "criminal wrongdoing" by Sheriff Haskell.
"The only people who truly suffer are the citizens of Sublette County. I was elected to perform a specific function as the Sheriff of this county, and because I have opinions that differ from theirs, this is how I am treated. It’s a shame that when someone stands up for the people, this is what happens."