Republicans have asked the Mercer County Inspector General to launch an investigation into Sheriff Kevin Larkin’s disruption of a community college class earlier this month.
According to published reports, Larkin was notified by text message that a professor cited him as an example of a double-dipper during a state and local politics class. Larkin collects a pension while earning a full-time salary as the Sheriff, which is legal in New Jersey.
“The basis for the investigation that I am requesting is based not on his intimidation tactics or his completely inappropriate behavior in an academic setting,” Mercer County GOP Chairman Roy Wesley wrote in a letter to the inspector general, Robert Farkas. “Rather, I am requesting an investigation by your office into whether or not Mr. Larkin’s actions, which were done in his official capacity as the county’s elected law enforcement officer, using taxpayer funded personnel to assist him in addressing a purely personal or political situation, and using taxpayer funded vehicles to accomplish this matter, was an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”
Wesley called Larkin’s actions “absolutely inappropriate and intimidating.”
Wesley’s letter to Farkas:
Robert A. Farkas, Inspector General
County of Mercer
Office of the Inspector General
640 South Broad Street
P.O. Box 8068
Trenton, NJ 08650
Dear Mr. Farkas:
I am writing to you to request that you immediately commence and investigation into reported actions by Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin on February 1, 2010.
As I’m sure you have read, those actions involved Sheriff Larkin disrupting a class at Mercer County Community College over a disagreements Mr. Larkin had with comments made by a county college professor regarding Sheriff Larkin’s public pension and taxpayer funded salary, which total, according to professor Michael Glass, nearly $215,000 per year.
When Sheriff Larkin disrupted the class at 9.20 p.m., he was accompanied by aides who were apparently on the taxpayer payroll at the time. He arrived in a county-owned vehicle.
The Sheriff’s actions have raised any number of questions regarding the propriety of his actions, infringement on academic freedom, the effect of a law enforcement officer entering a classroom and asking that a teacher leave the room, and so on. The impact of Sheriff Larkin’s actions on the students has already been documented. Obviously, he owes those students a formal apology.
The basis for the investigation that I am requesting is based not on his intimidation tactics or his completely inappropriate behavior in an academic setting. Rather, I am requesting an investigation by your office into whether or not Mr. Larkin’s actions, which were done in his official capacity as the county’s elected law enforcement officer, using taxpayer funded personnel to assist him in addressing a purely personal or political situation, and using taxpayer funded vehicles to accomplish this matter, was an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, I would ask that you review all records, phone logs, video surveillance or other evidence to determine if Sheriff Larkin presented himself in his official capacity and if such presentation had the effect of intimidating employees or students at MercerCountyCommunity College.
Your office has the laudable challenge of enhancing public confidence and integrity in county government by establishing and implementing procedures for reporting, investigating and resolving complaints of fraud, conflicts of interest, corruption, criminal activities, abuse of office, waste and mismanagement.
At first blush, Sheriff Larkin’s actions seem at a minimum to be an abuse of office and a waste of taxpayer dollars. An investigation of this matter by your office is clearly warranted to help restore confidence in the county government.
I thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to the findings of an investigation.