No indictments issued by Tiregate grand jury |

No indictments issued by Tiregate grand jury

Staff Reports
County tire expenditures shot up over the past decade, prompting an investigation.
Kurt HIldebrand |

There are several recommendations, but no indictments included in the Douglas County Grand Jury report issued on Tuesday.

After five months delving into the theft of $1 million in tires from Douglas County’s motor pool, grand jurors concluded that there was insufficient evidence to indict any members of the family of deceased Motor Pool Director Chris Oakden, his co-workers, or the California man who purchased most of the tires Oakden misappropriated.

“Witnesses subpoenaed to testify before the 2019-20 Special Grand Jury did not provide any admissible evidence to proceed with criminal investigations that might have led to prosecution of any of Oakden’s family members,” grand jurors concluded.

“A combination of the (previous) chief financial officer’s incompetence, blind trust, and lack of follow-up; coupled with the finance department deferring an internal audit and regular tire inventories; created the perfect environment for employee fraud,” grand jurors said. “Poor management decisions constitute negligence but are not necessarily prosecutable criminal offenses.”

Among their 13 recommendations, grand jurors’ most important admonishment to the county is to avoid becoming complacent.

“Avert the potential for future theft or misdirection of county property by applying the same or newly developed appropriate policies, training, cash handling, employee evaluation and improved inventory procedures in all county departments.”

Grand jurors recommended the county establish timelines for priorities and expected completion dates for county reforms. At least three internal audits a year should be conducted with short notices to departments. Establish a system to determine the status of outstanding receivables in all departments.

Training to county commissioners, department heads and employees in budgeting, human resources, inventory control and ethics was also urged.

Douglas County commissioners asked Judge Tod Young to convene a grand jury after Nevada Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney General declined to prosecute the case.

The grand jury began its investigation in November 2019, starting with a 99-page summary of a 16-month investigation conducted by the Nevada Department of Investigation. State detectives found Oakden was primarily responsible for the thefts.

Oakden was fired from his county job. He was killed in a head-on collision on April 24, 2017, on his way to talk to state detectives.

The department transmitted the report to the Attorney General’s Office on Aug. 31, 2018. The office then issued a letter declining to prosecute anyone else in the case on Dec. 21, 2018. The letter wasn’t revealed to the public until The Record-Courier sought its release the following month.

Oakden was accused of purchasing tires that didn’t fit any county vehicles using county money and selling them to a variety of parties.

One of his chief customers was a California resident who sold the semi-truck tires.

According to the state investigation, Oakden used the proceeds to fund gambling trips and cruises far beyond what his county salary would support.

Another county employee was fired and three more quit as a result of the thefts.

The state took on the criminal investigation when the thefts were uncovered in March 2017. Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson handled the internal investigation. Because county employees are compelled to cooperate in the internal probe, information developed there cannot be used in any criminal proceeding. That’s why the District Attorney’s Office did not conduct any criminal prosecution.