Former Nicholas County, Kentucky Sheriff Leonard Garrett, whom I have written about before here and here, has been sentenced for receiving money stolen from his county’s asset forfeiture fund. There’s not much new in the sentencing that we didn’t already know from the plea bargain three months ago (he’ll avoid jail but has to pay restitution, etc.), but Garrett’s comment after sentencing grabbed my attention:
Garrett said he wishes the sheriff’s office had never received the federal money.
“If I’d never seen that, I’d still be sheriff,” he said.
Sure, that’s completely self-serving, and Garrett should be punished (more severely, in my opinion) for stealing from the public coffers, but there is truth in the statement. When the federal government lays out money with essentially no oversight on how it’s spent, people are bound to misuse it. The whole point of our constitutional system of government is that we don’t trust any individual with power, so we attempt to hold everyone accountable with checks and balances. The Founders knew that unchecked power would always invite corruption, and that’s still the case today.
How many scandals like this will we have to witness before we give the power to appropriate forfeiture dollars back to legislators where it belongs?