A criminal investigation is underway into affairs of the Pulaski County Special School District.
We learned today of what is expected to be the first of several charges filed stemming from a fraudulent purchasing scheme in the district The district maintenance supervisor was taken into custody in Saline County yesterday on charges of felony theft by receiving. An investigator said James Diemer's arrestwas part of "a very large case" being run by the Pulaski County sheriff's office.
Saline County prosecutor's office investigator Richard Friend said he expects there will be additional charges for Diemer, who was arrested at his Hensley home after he acknowledged he'd been selling school district property to support a drug habit since 1998. The sheriff's office hauled away enough tools, equipment and other items to fill two flatbed trucks and a pick-up truck, Friend said. The affidavit says that several items were permanent or too large to move and will be removed later. They included some items (see jump), which seemingly would have raised eyebrows on a school purchase order -- a Polaris See-Do with trailer and a Polaris 330cc ATV. But it's unclear if these items were the result of direct district purchases or from ill-gotten money.
Friend said Diemer had told investigators "I've done wrong" and explained that since 1998 he had purchased with school money to resell at least $100,000 worth of tools, equipment and personal items valued at $2,500 or less using an open purchase order system. According to the affidavit:
Diemer stated that he had become addicted to Hydrocodone after a vehicle accident and abused the purchase order system as a means to obtain items to sell or trade for hydrocodone and oxycontin. Diemer advised that he had driven his PCSSD vehicle to transport and sell or trade the items in Mayflower, Conway, Little Rock and Sherwood and the surrounding areas. Diemer then detailed who he had traded certain items to and whether the items were traded directly for drugs or sold for money to purchase the drugs.
Diemer said he turned in purchase orders to secretary April Williams, who would then submit them to James Warren, Diemer's supervisor. We called Warren to ask about Diemer's account. Warren, executive director for support services, is on leave. He said he'd been on a medical leave for about a month. He said he knew nothing about the investigation and that nobody had contacted him about it. Read some of the contents of the affidavit, Warren expressed surprise but said he had no comment.
State Legislative Audit, which has been looking at the PCSSD books at the request of School Board president Tim Clark, is working with the sheriff's office on an examination of district finances. Clark today said he asked for the audit four months ago because of rumors he'd heard and "things I've seen firsthand that made me uncomfortable." Among those things was the money in the buildings budget, which he said "would seem to change from one day to the next."
The acting superintendent of the PCSSD, Rob McGill, did not return phone calls.
The district has been roiled by conflict over a variety of issues in recent months and a divided school board. The friction, including discord over construction problems at two district schools, ultimately led to the buyout of Superintendent James Sharpe's contract for $185,000.
Items listed in evidence in Diemer's arrest:
Red metal canopy garage with storage room.
1993 Polaris See-Doo with trailer.
Alumnium diamond plate truck toolbox
Honda pressure washer
Milwaukee chop saw
Milwaukee power charger
Westward tool set
Dayton Wall vacuum
Bosch construction radio
Crescent brand socket set
Polaris 330CC ATV