A story that has been developing for several months finally broke in the paper over the weekend. Details of the story reveal that Tamara Jenkins who works for the White County Office of Emergency Management for Judge Lincoln has been under investigation by the state police for embezzlement of public funds.
One allegation regarded two personal purchases by Jenkins on a county Visa card the day before and the day of Thanksgiving, Nov. 24-25, 2010. Jenkins spent $11.11 at Sexton Foods and $20.79 at Walmart on items for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Jenkins admitted to making the purchases but said she reimbursed the county.
Reimbursement for the $20.79 was made on Sept. 29, three days after the interview with police in which Jenkins said she had already paid back the money. Reimbursement for the $11.11 was made on July 8, two days after state police met with Raff.
I think we can all see how this could easily happen to any of us…if we were carrying around a county credit card in our wallet. This may have been an inadvertent mistake, but waiting almost a year to make the reimbursements and then lying to the police about when the reimbursements were made is inexcusable for a public employee.
The second allegation involves the purchase of an air conditioning heat pump on April 20, 2010. The unit was purchased for $150 by Jenkins at Arkansas Federal Surplus and paid for by the county. Teague stated that the unit was seen behind Jenkins’ residence and that Jenkins had asked Teague’s friend, David Mullen, to hook the unit up to her home.
Jenkins told police that the unit was purchased for a volunteer fire department, but department officials later decided they did not want it. The specific fire department was not mentioned in the police report, and Jenkins refused to specify to which fire department she was referring when contacted by a reporter from The Citizen Thursday evening.
She told police that the unit was not purchased for personal use, but was stored at her home because she had nowhere else to store it. Jenkins denied asking anyone to hook the unit to her home, but did admit to asking if the unit was the size needed for her home.
I’m sorry, when was the last time a volunteer fire department refused something from the county? And why can you not specify which department?
The final allegation regarded the purchase of two FEMA camper trailers from OEM, Division of Federal Surplus property on May 26 for $500 each. Haynie told police that he drove to Jenkins’ residence the morning of June 26 and saw one of the trailers parked next to Jenkins’ home and took a photograph of it. Haynie provided the image to police. By the time of Haynie’s interview with police on July 20, the trailer had been moved near the OEM office. Jenkins admitted to police that she did have one of the trailers at her home, but only for a short period of time while cleaning it up.
What is particularly interesting about this story is the fact that the $11.11 reimbursement for the Thanksgiving items from Sexton Foods was not made until July of this year, two days after the investigation was initiated. The $20.69 reimbursement for goods purchased at Walmart on the county’s Visa was not made until September 29th of this year, according to the paper, 3 days after Jenkins was interviewed by ASP. And reportedly in that meeting on the 26th, Jenkins told ASP that the reimbursement had already been made. Oops.
Another interesting tidbit: OEM is the department that is currently demanding a new building, and the judge has found one that he wants to buy them for the low price of $590,000–despite the fact that it was previously purchased for $320,000 just a few years ago. And I’m sure that, if OEM had a bigger building, this misconduct by Miss Jenkins never would have happened because she would have had plenty of room to store all of her toys. In fact, this building is so big, she could devote an entire room to storing the county’s credit cards and state police investigative files against her office. And perhaps that is appropriate. I’ll have more on this story later this week. It will shock you when it is all brought to light.
For those of you who may be worried that Miss Jenkins may lose her job for her misconduct, do not fear: Judge Lincoln has assured the public that her job is not in jeopardy, that he ‘knew all along’ that there would be no charges filed, and that the entire investigation was ‘politically motivated.’ To quote the judge in the article: “I have confidence in Tamara to do her job.”
Lincoln’s primary opponent, Bill Haynie, called for Jenkins’ termination in the article:
You can follow this link to read the full investigation report from the state police.
White County voters should demand more accountability from their officials. You can contact Judge Lincoln at firstname.lastname@example.org or (501) 279-6200.