A former Union County Road Department employee has provided new details on the stolen equipment and corruption scandal that has gripped the county for more than two years. The former employee, who wished to remain anonymous fearing possible retribution, said it was quite obvious that the county had purchased stolen equipment before the FBI seized it.
The employee also requested that Eyewitness News disguise his voice and not show his face. The employee worked for the road department for several years but has since left the department.
He described the road department staff as a bunch of hard-working, blue collared and dedicated bunch that had no involvement in the scandal.
“I hate to see the backlash on them [the past two years],” the former employee said. “I just want everyone to know that the workers did what they were supposed to do. They did their job. I know a lot of people think that county work is just standing around with shovels. No. These were good guys and good women working hard.”
The former employee said he first started noticing the influx of heavy construction equipment in the first couple of months of 2014. At the time, the former employee said the county road department already had an adequate arsenal of heavy equipment.
The former employee believes the six pieces of equipment the county purchased were not needed. There were also some other peculiar aspects to the equipment, he said.
“When the equipment started coming in, you could blatantly see that it was almost just off the job site,” the former employee said.
In 2014, public records show the county purchased six pieces of construction equipment, which totaled roughly $100,000. The equipment was later seized by the FBI in late December that year.
The FBI linked the equipment to an elaborate theft ring operating out of southwestern Indiana. Each piece of equipment had a series of red flags, the former employee said.
“It was about a week or two in. I guess when parts were needed, the VIN number was missing,” the former employee said.
Much of the equipment also had fresh mud on the outside, the former employee said. One of the pieces of equipment even had a cup used for chewing tobacco still in the cupholder, he said.
Additionally, one of the county’s purchases, a 2013 Case CX55B mini-excavator, had been reported stolen from an Evansville construction site on July 3rd, 2014, according to a police incident report. Federal law enforcement sources said that same piece of equipment was purchased by the county just days later. According to the voucher claim, the county purchased a 2013 Case CX55B mini-excavator on July 8th.
“Working there, you could pretty well put two-and-two together. I’m sure everybody else could put two and two together as well,” the former employee said. “They would have signs of work and fresh signs of being used.”
The former employee also alleges that a majority of the time, the county-bought equipment wasn’t being used by county workers nor was it being used on county projects.
“It’s a small town. It’s not like we can’t drive around and see that equipment at somebody else’s place. Union County isn’t that big,” the former employee said. “Usually if a piece of equipment is bought by or for the county road department, it should be at the county road department.”
The former employee said he and others at the road department didn’t publicly raise issue with the equipment out of fear for their jobs. He came forward now because he believes its time for others to do the same.
The corruption, the former employee said, is widespread and it doesn’t stop at the now-indicted Judge Executive Jody Jenkins. Jenkins pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday on four counts of honest services fraud. Jenkins is alleged to have received approximately $20,000 in kickbacks on the equipment purchases.
“The average people in Union County know and you can see with your own eyes that the majority of the county is corrupt,” the former employee said.