A former Jenkins public official pleaded not guilty this week to charges that he stole nearly $500,000 from state and federal funds intended for the care for disabled rest home residents.
James F. “Chum” Tackett, 68, of 351 No. 1 Hill, Jenkins, entered his not guilty plea in Letcher Circuit Court on May 4 in front of Kim Cornett Childers, chief Circuit Judge of Knott and Magoffin counties. Acting as a special judge in this case, Childers accepted his plea and reduced his bond from $500,000 cash to $250,000 cash plus $100,000 unencumbered property.
Daniel Dotson, who along with James Asher is representing Tackett, said his client has never been charged with escape and is not a flight risk. Dotson said Tackett, who is a former Jenkins mayor, county magistrate and county commissioner, has been admitted to the Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital two times since he was arrested April 21. Dotson said Tackett asked medical personnel to unhook him from an IV so that he could appear in court May 4. Tackett was still wearing a hospital bracelet during the court proceeding.
Dotson said Tackett suffers from diabetes and has uncontrollable high blood pressure.
Barbara Whaley with the Attorney General’s office, said Tackett was functioning daily up until his arrest. She said the AG’s office was notifi ed that Tackett attended games of the Sweet Sixteen Boys’ High School Basketball Tournament in March at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Whaley said if needed, Tackett could be transferred to the Department of Corrections medical facility.
“His health condition is current,” said Dotson.
Dotson said the reason for Tackett’s IV is that he has mild kidney failure and is undergoing a number of medical tests and physical therapy.
Whaley introduced three exhibits giving examples of assets belonging to Tackett. She said Tackett has $87,000 in a savings account in a bank in Sevierville, Tenn. Whaley said Tackett has three vehicles registered in Tennessee in his name including a 2004 Hummer valued at more than $40,000, a 2006 Chevy 1500 Silverado and a 2008 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport.
“These are further evidence of his ability to pay,” said Whaley.
Whaley also said she found a deed of purchase by Tackett in 2005 of property in Letcher County from 540 Park Corporation of a building valued at $80,000, which currently houses the Jenkins Independent Board of Education. The loan was paid off in April 2009.
Whaley said Tackett owns property in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Letcher County and Owsley County.
After the court proceeding ended, Tackett’s family members started the process of posting bond for Tackett in the circuit clerk’s office. All requirements had not been met at 4 p.m. when the clerk’s office closed. As of press time Tackett remained lodged in the Letcher County Jail. In addition to posting cash and property, Tackett’s passport will have to be handed over to the clerk’s office before he can be released from jail.
A Letcher County grand jury returned an indictment against Tackett, administrator of the Golden Years Rest Home in Jenkins, on April 15 on 66 counts of theft by failure to make required disposition over $500, a Class D felony. Tackett also faces one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $10,000, one count of theft by deception over $10,000 and five counts of knowing exploitation of an adult over $300, all Class C felonies. Tackett is also charged with one count of theft by failure to make required disposition under $500, a Class A misdemeanor.
The money Tackett allegedly stole was to be used for the care of disabled residents at the Golden Years Rest Home.
The corporation, Letcher Co. Golden Years Rest Home Inc., is named in each of the counts as a codefendant, on grounds that the crimes were committed or wantonly tolerated by a “high managerial agent” or the board of directors.
Attorney James W. Craft II entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Golden Years Rest Home.
The grand jury also indicted Tackett’s daughter, 42-year-old Kimberly Price of Booneville, on one count of complicity to theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $10,000, three counts of complicity to theft by failure to make required disposition over $500 and two counts of complicity to knowing exploitation of an adult over $300. Price served as chairperson of the board of directors at Golden Years Rest Home.
Price also entered a not guilty plea in Letcher Circuit Court May 4. Price was arrested April 23 and released from jail after posting a $25,000 bond. Dotson also asked for a reduction of bond for Price, but Childers overruled the motion.
The indictment and arrest of Tackett and Price follow a nearly seven-month investigation by Attorney General Jack Conway’s Department of Criminal Investigations. The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Special Prosecutions at the request of the Letcher County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The charges against Tackett stem from his involvement with the Letcher County Golden Years Rest Home between 2003 and 2010 and allege ongoing theft of federal and state funds totaling nearly $500,000 intended for the care of disabled residents.
The charges against Price stem from her involvement in the rest home corporation in 2009. The charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000 or double the gain on each defendant.
Tackett and Price are due back in Letcher Circuit Court at 1 p.m. on July 30 for a formal pretrial conference.