Former Commissioner Jerry Craig Implicated In State Audit Of Embezzled Money

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Former Madison County Commissioner Jerry Craig was named and implicated in a state audit released Friday morning that alleges financial misconduct and theft of taxpayer monies.

The report by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts said Craig and his former secretary Deborah Kay Sims are jointly responsible for more than $176,000 of county funds that were improperly used and currently unaccounted for. The misconduct reportedly spanned an eight-year period from 2005 to 2012.

The audit states Craig and Sims did not attend a late February hearing to discuss the alleged misconduct, and that they would be held fully responsible for the money as a result. Sims was indicted on multiple felony theft and ethics charges earlier this week, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. She worked for Jerry Craig for more than two decades, and was fired last year after being confronted about several financial irregularities in a Madison County bank account.

The audit shows that more than $65,000 of the misused money was spent via debit card on “personal expenses” that included grocery store purchases and clothing items. Another $70,000 worth of cash withdrawals were improperly documented and subsequently deposited into a bank account primarily used for the annual Madison County Fishing Rodeo. Sources close to the investigation said evidence links Sims to a number of unusually large deposits and subsequent withdrawals that had nothing to do with the event.

WHNT News 19 first reported on the investigation in December.

Current District Three Commissioner Eddie Sisk said he contacted law enforcement after receiving a mysterious bank statement in the mail in late 2012, just weeks after he succeeded Craig.

“It’s a lot of money, and it took a lot of services away from the people in District 3,” said Sisk. “It tells me that they really didn’t care, it was taxpayer dollars, and it didn’t matter to them because it wasn’t coming out of their pocket…It’s hard for me to believe that it went on as long as it did without him knowing about it.”

Sisk said Sims’ husband, Alton Sims, was placed on administrative leave Thursday due to the findings of the audit. Alton Sims works as a laborer in the District Three office. The audit shows that Kay Sims wrote her husband a series of checks totaling more than $8,000, part of the $176,000 in question.

The State Examiner’s report also finds that Craig and Kay Sims are responsible for more than $1,300 in bank overdraft fees, and more than $400 worth of ATM fees.