A routine audit performed by the Buncombe County Finance Department last December during the transition from outgoing Sheriff Bobby Medford to his successor, Van Duncan, has come up short of cash, weapons and drugs seized during criminal investigations. The Asheville Citizen-Times, which obtained a copy of an internal evidence-room audit report released to the SBI and other government entities in early June, broke the story on June 7.
The report, the first page of which is reproduced at right, cites “poor management, poor organizational skills and failure to maintain a clear chain of custody” during Medford’s 12-year administration. Auditors selected a 30-item sample from the evidence-inventory database. The result of that examination revealed major problems, according to the report: “The audit disclosed that 50 percent of the sample was no longer in evidence inventory; 27 percent of the sample could not be located.”
The full audit revealed “poor inventory management” and “evidence bags found open with contents missing,” and noted that “[t]he lack of controls and management in the evidence room created an environment that could lead to previous court convictions being overturned or future cases being compromised.”
Among the items that could not be accounted for were $217,769 in cash, 233 handguns, 114 shotguns/rifles, and drugs noted on 1,318 evidence-reporting sheets. In addition, the report says, “Numerous evidence items were found with no case identification markings including drugs, guns and rape kits.”
Medford told the Citizen-Times that the missing guns had been buried in concrete in the new jail addition and that District Attorney Ron Moore could verify his story. (Moore has since said that he cannot, and other county officials have disputed the explanation.) Maintaining that nothing had been stolen, Medford noted, “As you can tell, if I had any goddamn money I wouldn’t be living in any $350-a-month apartment.” He also said the reason the auditors had found empty evidence bags, cash in unmarked envelopes or strewn on the floor and unlabled rape test kits was that the county had failed to provide money to renovate the evidence room.
On June 7, Medford’s attorney, Bob Long, told Xpress he knew nothing beyond what had been reported in the Citizen-Times. “That paper reported that he has referred all questions to [County Manager] Wanda Greene,” Long said.
At press time, Greene was not available for comment.