The mayor of Cordell, Oklahoma, says he is surprised at allegations that he has been wrongfully collecting thousands of dollars in public funds during his tenure as mayor and the city utilities board manager. Damon Jackson told local reporters that he would work both positions without pay until an investigation is completed and the situation is resolved.
Earlier this year, a state audit revealed that Jackson appeared to have collected more than $260,000 in salary above what is authorized by city ordinance. Washita County District Attorney Dennis Smith asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) to investigate.
According to the audit, Damon Jackson violated a state law that prohibits an elected official from collecting a salary from a government position beyond the scope of his or her elected duties. According to the audit requested by the Cordell City Council, Jackson received salaries as both the city manager and the manager of the Cordell utilities trust while simultaneously serving as elected mayor:
Jackson is also accused of collecting double and triple the allowable fuel and travel expenses as well as collecting travel expenses for traveling with his band outside the scope of his governmental duties.
The OSBI investigation is expected to be completed in 30 to 60 days; Jackson told reporters he remains "optimistic" that the "situation will be answered."
Embezzlement or misappropriation of funds is punishable according to the value of the money or property taken. In general, embezzlement of more than $25,000 carries a potential sentence of up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and restitution to the victim. The state strengthens the penalties for embezzlement of public funds by allowing a fine of triple the amount of the value of the stolen property or funds.
However, when the perpetrator of the crime is an elected official, the penalties increase even more. The Oklahoma statute detailing embezzlement of state property,21 O.S. § 341, reads as follows:
Every public officer of the state or any county, city, town, or member or officer of the Legislature, and every deputy or clerk of any such officer and every other person receiving any money or other thing of value on behalf of or for account of this state or any department of the government of this state or any bureau or fund created by law and in which this state or the people thereof, are directly or indirectly interested, who either:
First: Receives, directly or indirectly, any interest, profit or perquisites, arising from the use or loan of public funds in the officer’s or person’s hands or money to be raised through an agency for state, city, town, district, or county purposes; or
Second: Knowingly keeps any false account, or makes any false entry or erasure in any account of or relating to any moneys so received by him, on behalf of the state, city, town, district or county, or the people thereof, or in which they are interested; or
Third: Fraudulently alters, falsifies, cancels, destroys or obliterates any such account, shall, upon conviction, thereof, be deemed guilty of a felony and shall be punished by a fine of not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), and by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for a term of not less than one (1) year nor more than twenty (20) years and, in addition thereto, the person shall be disqualified to hold office in this state, and the court shall issue an order of such forfeiture, and should appeal be taken from the judgment of the court, the defendant may, in the discretion of the court, stand suspended from such office until such cause is finally determined.
Significant fines, restitution, lengthy prison sentences, and loss of public office may await any elected official convicted of embezzling public funds. Hiring an experienced white collar crimes lawyer is the best way to defend
oneself against accusations of misappropriating public funds. Find a white collar crime attorney in Oklahoma.
- From 2007 to 2012, Jackson allegedly received $30,500 as acting city manager in addition to his mayoral salary.
- During the same time period, he allegedly received a salary of $230,000 as general manager of the city's utility board.