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By Mark Mahoney
Journalist 

Commissioners discuss sheriff department's inventory

 

September 17, 2020



An Antelope County commissioner had several questions about an annual agenda item during the board’s meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8, in Neligh.

Commissioner Dean Smith was curious about the 2020 inventories of county personal property, which had been presented to the board the previous week.

However, due to the absence of the inventory of the county sheriff’s office at the time, the commissioners delayed acting on the agenda item.

“How thoroughly have they been reviewed?” Smith asked about the inventories. “I mean, I looked at these and some of the stuff has never changed for a lot of years.”

He focused on the inventory of the sheriff’s office.

“On the sheriff’s inventory – or else I missed it, so please I hope somebody would point it out if I did; it’s possible I did – I see that the new grill is listed,” Smith said. “I’d never seen where there had ever been a grill listed previously in inventory.”

He also was concerned about some of the guns listed in the inventory of the sheriff’s office.

“Then since there was these firearms acquired through the court – acquisition date 2003 – I mean, do we actually still have all those?” Smith asked. “Are they up there in the sheriff’s office? I mean, I went back for five years and like all that stuff has been listed for five years.”

He asked what the county’s “responsibility and obligation is to accuracy” in regard to its inventories of county personal property.

“There was an issue of supposedly a gun that went missing,” Smith said.

Commissioner carolyn pedersen noted the item that went missing was not a gun, but a bump stock.

A bump stock is a device that allows a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.

“It wasn’t the gun itself,” Pedersen said. “It’s a bump stock. That’s what was missing.”

Smith appreciated the explanation, but he still wondered about the firearms the sheriff’s office has listed on its inventory that date back to the early 2000s.

“We don’t normally take them off,” said county clerk Lisa Payne. “If you look on mine, we still have the shelving in the backroom on our inventory. Unless we remove them from the office, we don’t normally take them off.”

Smith explained no one was understanding what he was asking about.

“My question isn’t coming across,” Smith said. “Why do we still have these firearms from 2003 then that were court-acquired? Or do we not?”

The other commissioners and county officials at the meeting assumed the sheriff’s office possesses the items listed on its inventory because sheriff Robert Moore had signed off on the inventory.

Smith wondered how long the sheriff’s office has to hold on to the items – such as firearms – listed on its inventory.

“So they have to be held forever?” Smith asked. “They can’t be destroyed? They can’t be sold at a legitimate auction of some kind or something like that? That’s what I’m asking.”

“If these are court-ordered, they’re in evidence files, I’m pretty sure,” board chair Charlie Henery said.

Henery noted the commissioners needed to talk to Moore about the inventory of the sheriff’s office.

“If there is ever a weapon used in a homicide case, that has to stay in evidence until that person – if that person’s in prison – it stays in evidence until that person is deceased and then it’s destroyed,” Henery said.

“And that’s probably what you’re seeing there – those weapons were used to commit a crime,” he said. “They’re in inventory, but they’re in the evidence room.

“That’s my knowledge of it,” he said. “If it’s ever used to commit a crime, it’s in evidence until that person is deceased.”

Smith still was concerned about the item that previously went missing from the sheriff’s office.

“That’s why I looked back five years ago – whether be it a gun or a bump stock, it was never in inventory,” Smith said.

He wanted to wait until the commissioners’ next meeting to decide whether to approve the 2020 inventories of county personal property.

“If we’re not going to approve them today, then we can have further discussion later,” Smith said.

“I think by statute, it just says that we need to approve them,” Payne said.

Smith wanted to know why the commissioners could not wait to approve the inventories.

“I know last year we waited until November to approve them,” Payne said. “And the state auditor’s office drew my audit this year and asked me why they waited.

“And I’m like, ‘Because they told me we had until November.’ ‘Who told you?’ ‘My commissioners.’ And they’re like, ‘You don’t,’” she said.

“I’ll make a motion to go ahead and approve all the inventories, and then we can check into those,” Pedersen said.

Henery acknowledged Pedersen’s motion. Commissioner Eli Jacob seconded the motion.

In addition to Henery, Jacob and Pedersen, commissioner Regina Krebs approved the 2020 inventories of county personal property as presented. Smith voted against the motion.

Pedersen noted Moore could be put on the agenda for the commissioners’ next meeting to answer any questions they have about his office’s inventory.

“I know the bump stock was bought prior to Bob, so maybe he was not even aware that it was even there,” Pedersen said. “That was prior to Bob taking office, I know that.”

In a follow-up interview, Smith noted he wants to know why the sheriff’s office has held on to items – such as firearms – for as long it has.

“I’m wondering if those are actually still there,” Smith said.

He also wants to know more about the item that previously went missing from the inventory of the sheriff’s office.

“There’s not anything listed that would match the one that was in the Jeff Treu deal,” Smith said.

Smith confirmed the missing item – the bump stock, according to Pedersen – that the commissioners discussed was part of a federal criminal case involving former Antelope County sheriff’s deputy Jeffrey Treu.

From what Smith could recall about the case, there was controversy over who owned the bump stock, according to Treu.

“Supposedly the reason it got to be a big deal and it went to federal district court was the fact that the gun had been changed over and had this bump stock put on it,” Smith said.

“Supposedly the gun – with or without the bump stock – was still a gun that was the county’s at one time,” he said.

Treu received a sentence in June of 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and a $100 special assessment after pleading guilty to making a false statement last year to a special agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“The federal district court convicted him, so I’m assuming the gun did come from the sheriff’s office,” Smith said.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska, after Treu left his job with the Antelope County Sheriff’s Office in 2007, he failed to return a firearm, which had been modified into a fully automatic law enforcement weapon.

When the sheriff’s office discovered the firearm missing from the inventory in early 2019, the office contacted the ATF to investigate.

According to facts established in a plea agreement, several witnesses came forward to report Treu had bragged about keeping the firearm and having a “machine gun he liked to shoot.”

He was questioned by the ATF and Nebraska State Patrol. He initially told investigators he had returned the firearm to a former Antelope County sheriff’s deputy, who has since died.

Treu admitted he may still have the upper – non-firearm – portion of the gun at his Oakdale farm, but not the lower registered machine gun.

The former Wisner police chief later admitted to lying and led investigators to the firearm in a bedroom of his home.Closed sessions held

In other business Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Antelope County Board of Commissioners heard from county road superintendent Aaron Boggs about the county’s road repair agreement with TC Energy.

The company formerly known as TransCanada has compiled a contract and sent a copy of it to county attorney Joe Abler.

However, Boggs had not heard from Abler yet, so the commissioners requested Abler attend the meeting to discuss the contract.

 

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