Former Franklin County Highway Department supervisor, Jeff Thurmond, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three felony forgery charges.
Although Thurmond was present in the courtroom, his attorney Rodney McKinney requested to waive the preliminary hearing and spoke on his behalf.
When Circuit Judge Ike Lamke asked Thurmond if those were indeed his wishes, he simply replied “Yes.”
A trial date was then set for May 2.
Thurmond was charged with the felonies after a lengthy investigation by the Missouri Highway Patrol that was initiated last September.
According to the probable cause statement filed by the patrol, Thurmond used a Lowe’s credit card to purchase more than $12,000 in personal items over a three-year period. The charges represent purchases made in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Thurmond admitted to purchasing the items, which were recovered from his home, police said.
On Jan. 23, a warrant was issued and Thurmond turned himself in two days later.
At that time, Thurmond was officially booked at the Franklin County Sheriff’s department. His bond was originally set at $10,000, but a reduction was granted and he posted $1,000 cash bond at the circuit clerk’s office.
Franklin County Prosecutor Bob Parks said the county filed forgery charges due to a recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling that classified stealing as only a misdemeanor.
Parks added he is currently working with the county on restitution fees that may be included in a potential plea agreement, although nothing formal has been offered at this time.
If the case goes to trial and he is convicted, Parks said Thurmond could face a maximum of 21 years in prison and be forced to pay $15,000 in fines.
Thurmond was a candidate for the second district commission seat in the August 2016 Republican primary election.
He was terminated in September after 30 years of employment by the county. He most recently was the eastern district highway supervisor.
Thurmond allegedly padded credit card purchases for highway department projects and then purchased materials and tools he used for improvements to his home.
The investigation was initiated after a fellow highway employee was asked to make similar purchases, but refused.
In September, former Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said his office began an investigation into a county employee after Tammy Vemmer, Franklin County auditor, noticed discrepancies in purchase orders signed by the employee and brought those to his attention.
Toelke said he made the decision to ask the patrol to investigate the allegations to avoid the appearance of any possible conflict.