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Ex-parole chief accused of falsifying travel

Officials say he was visiting a female friend when he said he was on business.

By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 22, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Former Parole Commission chairman Jimmie Lee Henry was arrested Thursday on multiple charges of falsifying expense records and stealing more than $25,000 from Florida taxpayers.

Henry, 53, is accused of repeatedly falsifying travel and expense reports over two years. He frequently claimed he made a trip on state business while actually visiting a female friend in South Carolina. On two occasions he paid for her to travel to parole-related conferences.

He is accused of using a state credit card to pay for personal purchases, including airplane tickets for Frances Cox, the Greenville, S.C., woman he frequently visited. On other occasions he claimed to be attending a conference in Houston or visiting commission offices in Jacksonville when he was actually in South Carolina with Cox.

State regulations forbid employees from using government credit cards for personal use. Henry is accused of making purchases at Sears, a video store, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Comcast Cable television and Lowe's for personal items valued at more than $5,000.

In a detailed affidavit filed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Mark M. Perez, Henry's travel was painstakingly compared to cell phone records which frequently indicated he was not in the city where he claimed to be.

The comparison is remarkably similar to the process used by the New York Times earlier this year when they determined that reporter Jayson Blair didn't make trips he claimed.

The 71-page affidavit also used Henry's e-mail and other records to document his travel and compare it to expense vouchers he submitted to the state. Henry also is accused of making hundreds of personal calls, valued at more than $1,650, on his state cell phone.

In March 2003, Henry allegedly charged the state for a trip to Houston to attend a Texas Parole Board workshop when he actually was visiting Cox in Greenville. Investigators say the Texas conference never occurred and cell phone records indicated he was in South Carolina on the days he claimed to have been in Texas.

In November 2002, Henry charged the state for a trip to regional offices in Tampa and Orlando when he actually attended the Florida Classic football game between Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman College in Orlando.

Henry, 53, faces three felony counts of grand theft and 21 misdemeanor counts of falsifying travel records. He surrendered at the Leon County Jail Thursday after FDLE agents notified his Tallahassee attorney, Stephen Dobson, that an arrest warrant had been issued. He was released on his own recognizance.

Dobson said Henry immediately turned himself in, but was not willing to discuss the allegations.

Henry's arrest comes after a three-month investigation that began when state auditors discovered serious problems at the state agency, which determines parole for prisoners.

Henry, a former Cabinet aide for Comptroller Bob Milligan, is a former FAMU football player and is widely known in state political circles.

Auditors also uncovered a $50,000 payment Henry quietly approved for a former employee who accused the agency's human resources director of rape and sexual harassment. That incident occurred in June 2001, but was not reported to any law enforcement agency until last month when Parole Commission chairwoman Monica David referred it to Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell.

Frank Trueblood, the human resources director accused of rape, resigned from the agency in June shortly after the incident was discovered. Despite the allegations made in 2001 and the use of taxpayer funds to resolve the complaint, Henry repeatedly approved raises for Trueblood. Auditors noted that Trueblood's salary nearly doubled when Henry ran the commission.

David took over the commission after Henry was forced to resign in May. She has pledged to clean up the problems at the Commission.

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