The U.S. Department of Justice is demanding Georgia Sheriff Butch Conway reimburse $70,000 for his purchase of a 707 horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat, which has been deemed too “extravagant” of a purchase.
Sheriff Conway’s office paid $69,258 for the Hellcat back in April. The purchase was made with asset forfeiture funds and was initially approved by the Department of Justice under its “equitable sharing program,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Here’s the department’s reasoning, via the Journal-Constitution:
Guidelines prohibit “the use of equitably shared funds for extravagant expenditures,” the DOJ’s letter, dated July 10, said. “The vehicle in question is a high-performance vehicle not typically purchased as part of a traditional fleet of law enforcement vehicles.”
The department was also suspicious of the Hellcat’s described use as Sheriff Conway’s personal car coming to and from work, and for undercover and covert operations.
But the Gwinnett County Sheriff doesn’t agree with the Department of Justice and has defended the purchase. Here’s more from the Journal-Constitution:
Conway, who has been sheriff since 1996, is standing behind the purchase.
“Sheriff Conway maintains that this vehicle is an appropriate purchase, especially for an agency with a $92 million budget and the opportunity this vehicle provides in making our roadways safer,” Deputy Shannon Volkodav, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said in a written statement, according to The Atlanta H.
The sheriff’s Hellcat application touted the high-powered vehicle’s potential use in Gwinnett County’s Beat the Heat program, a nonprofit that uses drag races in controlled environments to “educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and illegal street racing.”
Regardless, county officials have agreed to reimburse the Department of Justice for the vehicle and will introduce new reviews in the equipment acquisition process. The deadline is July 31, and the sheriff offices’s forfeiture funding has been frozen until the reimbursement is made.
Ethical issues of a program that uses asset forfeiture funding to assist taxpayer money for equipment acquisitions aside, it’s hilarious that the Sheriff’s main defense for buying himself a Hellcat to drive around in is that the Department of Justice has too much money to care. Must be nice.