NOWATA, OK – An Oklahoma sheriff running for election is being charged with embezzlement after stealing school supplies and using them for his campaign. Nowata County Sheriff Kenny David Freeman was charged and booked into the Washington County jail in Bartlesville, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Tulsa.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation report that an area Walmart donated about $25,000 in school supplies last month to Nowata County schools. They left the supplies at the Nowata County Sheriff’s Office for later dissemination and distribution. Instead of the supplies making their way to the schools in need, the Oklahoma sheriff took $6,000 in supplies for his election campaign.
Freeman took the supplies and gave them out at local events, including a local fair and at one point at a campaign booth, District Attorney Kevin Buchanan said.
“It appears he was using it for his campaign for sheriff,” Buchanan said.
Freeman’s arrest stands to disrupt a purported “Blue Wave” that is expected to sweep the country this midterm elections. Freeman, a Democrat, is running against Republican Terry Barnett on Nov. 6 in a race to fill the unexpired sheriff’s term.
After receiving the school supplies from the local Walmart, the Oklahoma sheriff took charge of delivering donated school supplies to schools in Nowata and South Coffeyville. The supplies were to be delivered around Sept. 13, but the supplies never reached those schools, Buchanan said. The supplies were requested by the sheriff’s office.
According to the Tulsa World:
The Walmart in Bartlesville prepared donations for seven area schools, including Nowata and South Coffeyville. Buchanan said the other five schools received their supplies. The donation to the seven schools was valued at $25,400. A Walmart employee told investigators that, because it was the Sheriff’s Office picking up the donations, she “gave them extra,” according to the affidavit.
One Walmart employee reported seeing the stolen school supplies at the Sheriff’s Office booth at the county fair. She allegedly saw coloring books, lunch boxes, crayons and markers at the booth.
“She said she recognized the items as she’d just handled them for markdown the week before,” investigators state in the affidavit.
The Oklahoma sheriff is accused of giving away 90 lunch boxes between the fair and a homecoming parade. In a Facebook post Freeman wrote, he admitted to giving away the lunch boxes and iterated what he did was not wrong. Freeman lashed out at the “drama” surrounding his actions by residents reasoning that he “gave the kids free lunch pails that had been donated to give to kids.”
In essence, the lunch boxes were already going to the kids and it didn’t matter if it was from Walmart or from him.
“That booth had a little bit of everything. The only part that was campaign was the back drop,” Freeman states. “All the rest of [sic] was freebies for the kiddos.”
The embattled sheriff posted $2,000 bond and was allowed back to work. The Tulsa World reports that Freeman can continue his role as sheriff unless a successful accusation for removal is levied. So far, no accusation for removal has been filed.