Friday, August 08, 2008

TOP STORY > >State Police probe drags on

Leader senior staff writer

The investigation into Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman’s use of county employees, equipment and materials to chip seal the parking area of a service station that his family owns has been ongoing for about a year, according to Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain, and she said Thursday that she wished the State Police would conclude that investigation.

She speculated that Troutman would also like to have the matter resolved.

State Police spokesman Bill Sadler confirmed that the state has been investigating for at least several months the alleged misuse of county paving equipment.

At the tail end of the July Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting, J.P. Bill “Pete” Pedersen asked Troutman whether or not he had used county materials, employees and equipment to chip seal a parking area of a service station his family members own at the junction of state Hwy. 31 and state Hwy. 38.

Troutman said he had done so because the county had used the property as a storage and staging area for some area roadwork.

He said he had sent his son an invoice and the county had been reimbursed.

“I thought State Police inves-tigator David Moss would have interviewed me by now,” said Judge Troutman, “since I was the chief culprit.”

“I’d like to see them finish this up and be done with it,” he added.

Troutman said investigators were interviewing witnesses to determine whether or not he had chip sealed the drive, he said, but that was a waste of time.

“I’ve already said I did it. I’ve never had any intention to defraud or hide anything,” he insisted.

Pedersen said the judge’s action was a violation of section 14-14-1202 of the Arkansas Counties Compliance Guide and constitutes a misdemeanor that could cost the judge up to $1,000 and his job as well.

If a county judge dies or leaves office, the governor would name a replacement to serve out the balance of his term, according to Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe.

Pedersen said that he believed that the property was owned by Judge Troutman, his son Toby and his wife Jodie Troutman, but the judge said Thursday that he had never owned the property.

Pedersen alleges that the company then sold the station at a nice profit.

Not so, said Jodie Troutman, who is the judge’s daughter-in-law and a member of the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

“The store is still owned by Toby and Jodie Troutman, personally, and I have yet to see the nice profit,” she said.

The judge said the county had used his son’s property around the county as staging sites several times since 2001, always without compensation until the incident in question.

“There’s been a lot of accusations made, some of them pretty careless,” the judge said.

“We’ll ride it on out,” he said. “It’s just Lonoke County politics.”