An animal shelter employee was suspended by Pulaski Fiscal Court yesterday after he was charged with stealing a recording device from the acting shelter director last spring.
At least one former animal shelter employee was also charged in connection with the incident.
“I’ve been informed his morning that there were criminal charges filed against two former employees at the animal shelter and one current employee as a result of their employment — during their employment at the shelter,” said Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield on Tuesday.
Hatfield’s comments came after fiscal court returned from an approximate one-hour executive session to discuss disciplinary actions.
Pulaski County Animal Shelter employee Jimmie Jones, 54, of Science Hill, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with theft by unlawful taking under $500 and falsely reporting an incident, both misdemeanors.
According to an arrest warrant filed Tuesday afternoon by Detective Chris Gates, with the Somerset Police Department, Jones on May 30, 2013 allegedly “ ... assisted in taking control over property belonging to Charlotte Bray with the intent to deprive her of her digital recorder.
“(Jones) is seen on surveillance video standing as look-out while another employee took the digital recorder out of the victim’s purse,” the warrant continues.
Jones also allegedly bought batteries “ ... so that all the co-defendants could listen to it once the recorder was taken,” according to the warrant.
Former animal shelter employee Nathan Epperson, 19, was also arrested Tuesday in connection with the alleged incident. Epperson was also charged with theft by unlawful taking under $500 and falsely reporting an incident.
According to Epperson’s arrest warrant, also filed by Gates, he can be seen on surveillance video “ ... reaching into the victim’s purse and removing the digital recorder.
But Epperson then allegedly placed the recorder back in Bray’s purse and “obtained the assistance of a work release inmate to actually take the digital recorder,” according to the warrant.
That incident allegedly took place at the animal shelter.
The next day, Jones and Epperson filed a criminal complaint against Bray with the Somerset Police Department, stating they found her recorder.
“This was not true and is considered falsely reporting an incident to the police by giving false information with the intent to implicate another,” states the arrest warrant filed in Jones’ case. “The recorder was stolen and not found as reported.”
The arrest warrant filed in Epperson’s case states that Epperson “gave a complete confession” during an interview with investigators.
Both men posted bond on Tuesday, but Jones’ bond requirements posed a problem for county officials. Jones is required to not communicate with or have contact with Bray, the alleged victim — which would mean he can’t perform his duties at the animal shelter while his case is pending.
“As such, he (Jones) can’t perform his job there, obviously,” said Hatfield. “He can’t be on the grounds.”
Bray is currently the shelter’s interim director. She took over in December after the former shelter director, Darren Wesley, resigned.
Bray currently has a discrimination complaint pending with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was filed in early 2013, against the county. Bray, who is being represented by local defense attorney Robert Norfleet, transferred to the animal shelter in 2011 after working at the Pulaski County Detention Center.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Bray showed her support for Jones, asking that the court consider placing him back in his position at the shelter after his case is resolved.
“Me and Jim have gotten working really close together,” said Bray. “He is an awesome worker. He is my best worker.
“Yes, there was some issues that went on prior, back in the summer time, but that is behind us,” Bray continued. “... He really cares. I need those kind of workers in there with me.”
Hatfield said he and Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy Montgomery have recused themselves from the case. He noted that Attorney General Jack Conway’s office is prosecuting the case.
“I would be extremely short-handed without him and all,” said Bray. “If there’s any chance at all he can come back to work, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it.”
Hatfield said the county can re-evaluate Jones’ work situation after his case is resolved.
“I’m sorry, but we’ve had two other employees that we’ve had to suspend for things, and we’ve got to follow the procedures and polices and we’ll do our best to try to get you somebody over there to help you work,” said 4th District Magistrate Glenn Maxey.
The court voted unanimously to suspend Jones without pay until his case is resolved.
The work release inmate mentioned in Gates’ arrest warrants was not named. The second former animal shelter employee, mentioned by Hatfield during Tuesday’s meeting, was also not named.
Capt. Shannon Smith, with SPD, declined to comment on the case and referred questions to Conway’s Office for Special Prosecutions.