Ex-Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington accepted free granite countertops in exchange for helping a man get out of a community service and took money from inmate phone cards to pay for his own legal troubles while in office, authorities allege in charges filed against him Friday.
Two other former employees of the sheriff's office were also charged, including a former lieutenant over criminal investigations who a confidential informant said provided her drugs in exchange for sex, the documents show.
Pennington, who left office last year after pleading guilty to alcohol-related charges after an arrest at a Benton restaurant, was formally charged Friday morning after an investigation by special prosecutor Cody Hiland.
Pennington is facing felony charges of theft of property and abuse of public trust and an additional misdemeanor theft of property charge. He was arrested at a Benton Wal-Mart around 11 a.m., Hiland said, though it wasn't clear if the other two ex-employees had been arrested.
According to the charging documents, the abuse of public trust charge reflects Pennington purportedly providing a false letter claiming a man who had been sentenced to community service had completed the work when he hadn't. Pennington then accepted an offer from the man to install granite countertops for free in his home, a probable cause affidavit states.
Pennington admitted providing the false letter and acknowledged that the man "wanted to repay him ... for the favor," the affidavit said. It added police spoke with multiple witnesses who said Pennington "bragged about the countertops and how he obtained them."
Pennington is also accused of using a $1,000 check to the sheriff's office for personal expenses after indicating it would be used to buy vests for the SWAT team and taking money that went missing from inmate phone card revenues. He used that to pay his own fines in district court from his own arrest and subsequent guilty pleas to public intoxication and refusal to submit to arrest.
Two others formerly employed by the sheriff's office are also charged as a result of the investigation, Hiland said.
Michael Frost, a former lieutenant over the criminal investigations division, is facing charges of delivery of a controlled substance and illegal use of a communication device.
According to a probable cause affidavit for Frost, an informant told authorities Frost would provide her narcotics and Frost "in turn would get sex" from the informant.
The document says investigators watched the informant's home at one point in June 2013 when Frost arrived in his sheriff's office vehicle, spent five minutes on the porch and left. The affidavit alleges he dropped off two white tablets that were later identified as Oxycodone.
JoNell Mallory, the former chief deputy of finance for the sheriff's office, is facing charges of theft of property and abuse of public trust, Hiland said.
Mallory is accused of having a man's court-ordered fines waived in exchange for him performing tile work in her residence as well as taking money from inmate phone cards "for her own personal use," according to an affidavit filed in her case.
A state audit last month revealed the sheriff's office had designated funds inappropriately and not accounted for thousands in spending over two years under Pennington, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The newspaper reported the audit revealed Mallory didn't deposit $5,610 in revenue from inmate phone cards and was asked to resign before being fired.
None of the three charged Friday were listed at 11:20 a.m. in an online database showing the inmate population at the Saline County jail.
Pennington filed to run again for sheriff in the upcoming election, but later withdrew his entry from the race.