Calhoun County Officials Could Be Facing Grand Jury Investigation

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A Calhoun County Commission meeting took an unexpected turn Tuesday. At the end of the meeting, a commissioner called for a grand jury investigation of several county officials and their spending practices.

Commissioner Danny Ray Wise specifically targeted County Administrator, Sonny O'Bryan and Clerk of Courts, Ruth Attaway.
Wise claimed O'Bryan spent too much on travel expenses, among other issues.

He also pointed the finger at his fellow commissioners, by asking for a review of the county's bidding and spending practices. Wise said he was well aware that request would lump himself in the category of those being investigated also.

"I want to be held to the fire too" Wise explained. "If I've done something wrong, I'll own up to it."

Wise said he had several issues he wanted investigated. In addition to the travel expenses, he said he thought the county administrator position itself was not only unneeded, but not supported by any county ordinance in the bylaws.

But O'Bryan disagreed. "We've got legal council sitting there. If there needs to be an ordinance in place, I would suggest our legal council bring it before the board and get one passed" O'Bryan said.

But Attaway explained, Wise had been well aware of O'Bryan's travel expenses. The commission had to approve all requests before she could issue checks.

"If someone said, 'I didn't know that was being paid', well then they're not being very careful in their obligations to be responsible when they sign off on those vouchers" Attaway told us.

News Channel 7 asked Wise if he had been approving the expenses during the eight years he has served on the board. "Yes I did" he answered. "And if it's wrong, I apologize and I want to make it right."

O'Bryan didn't buy Wise's explanation."A guy that sits on the board for 8 years and doesn't understand the process? Please."

Both Attaway and O'Bryan said they thought the commissioner's actions were politically motivated. Wise is leaving the commission in Nonmember and recently lost his own bid for clerk of courts.

"He ran for clerk and he didn't get elected" O'Bryan said. "Now, if I ran for clerk and got 630 votes or less, I'd be ill too."

We asked Attaway if an impending investigation left a bitter taste in her mouth as she finished her term as clerk and prepared for retirement in November.

"You can't feel bitter whenever it's just one person. Especially a recently defeated person who's probably feeling very wounded at this time" she told us.

Wise said he was considering his options regarding the possible investigation.

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