Former County Tourism Director Indicted: Accused Of Stealing Over $30K From County Tourism Commission
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Rhonda Clemmons, a former Edmonson County employee and former director of Edmonson County Tourism, has been indicted on more than 50 counts of forgery and/or theft.
According to court documents which were available this week following an Edmonson County Grand Jury, Clemmons faces 52 counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and one count of Theft by Unlawful Taking over $10,000.
The indictment document stated, "Rhonda J. Clemmons, committed the offense of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree when, with knowledge that it was forged and intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, she uttered or possessed a forged check on the account of the Edmonson County Tourist & Convention Commission."
The indictment further stated, "Rhonda J. Clemmons, committed the offense of Theft by Unlawful Taking over $10,000.00, when she stole approximately $30,407.77 from the Edmonson County Tourist & Convention Commission."
Each charge states that the acts were committed on or between January 14, 2019 through May 21, 2020.
While the Edmonson County Tourism Commission funded Clemmons' employment, she was made a county employee in order to receive full-time benefits. During Clemmons' employment, the Tourism Commission was not able to provide full-time employee benefits as a result of how their organization was set up. Tourism had an agreement with the county where Tourism would pay $8,000 per quarter to the county as reimbursement for Clemmons' pay.
Clemmons administered local room and rec taxes, which are collected by the Judge Executive's office with all room taxes being turned over to the Tourism Commission. All in-county businesses that provide lodging are required to pay a quarterly room tax. Clemmons, served as tourism director under the authority of the tourism commission board. The Edmonson County Planning Commission also contributed to Clemmons' salary and benefits package for her role as secretary there.
In April through May of 2020, the Judge Executive's Office discovered that the Tourism Commission was behind on $22,000 of quarterly payments. In a fiscal court meeting from May 26, 2020, Judge Wil Cannon said that when the commission was asked about the past due payments, Clemmons allegedly said there was no money as a result of the coronavirus pandemic; however, Cannon said that over that time period, the county had turned over more than $50,000 in room taxes over to Tourism, much of which was prior to the pandemic. The fiscal court voted to terminate her employment at that meeting.
As a result, the Judge Executive's Office began to work with the Edmonson County Tourism Commission to figure out where the money went. The Edmonson County Sheriff's Office was then contacted for an investigation, which was turned over to the Kentucky State Police. Judge Cannon spoke to us about the discovery of the missing funds.
"When the county discovered that tourism was behind on their payments we just thought it was an innocent mistake," he said. "But the more questions we began to ask Rhonda, the more she began to avoid them. Before too long we could see that something was wrong."
Judge Cannon said Clemmons was asked to provide receipts or other documentation regarding where the money went but nothing was ever produced.
Cannon said he then began working alongside Tourism to try to figure out what went wrong. He said 18 months of checks from the Tourism account were requested from the bank and that's where it was discovered the checks had been forged with Tourism board members' names.
Judge Cannon also said that Clemmons was asked to return the Tourism computer, which she regularly used. He said she finally returned it but the hard drive had been removed.
"I'm glad it's been investigated thoroughly and the indictment has finally happened," he said. "With this amount of money missing, someone has to have some answers."
The Edmonson Voice contacted Ms. Clemmons for comment at the time of her termination last year as well as now for comment on the indictment; neither of which did we received a response.
Shaska Hines, Chairperson of the Tourism Board gave a statement to the Voice on Thursday.
"This matter has been turned over to the authorities, who have investigated and brought the charges," she said. "The board of commissioners, including myself, remain committed to our community and moving forward in a positive direction."
Sheriff Shane Doyle also discussed his role in the investigation.
"I want to thank the Kentucky State Police for their excellent work on this case," Doyle said. "When it was brought to my attention, I realized the potential magnitude and the resources that would be required to properly investigate such a large scale crime. KSP's special investigations unit is the best of the best when it comes to these kind of issues, and they have done a wonderful job in helping our county and our government offices. I hope that justice is properly carried out through our court system, and I have full faith that it will be."
Clemmons was also the former Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce Director; however, she was not accused of any wrongdoing while employed by the Chamber, which has since hired a new director. She is also no longer the secretary of the Edmonson County Planning Commission.
If convicted, she faces 1-5 years in prison for each count of Possession of a Forged Instrument (a class D Felony) and 5-10 years in prison for the count of Theft by Unlawful Taking over $10,000 (a class C Felony). An indictment is only a formal charge and is not an admission of guilt.