By Staff Writers
TULSA — Taped conversations, bank statements and testimony from unindicted co-conspirators Tuesday revealed what prosecutors believe was a well-orchestrated plan by former District 3 County Commissioner Randy Baldridge to cheat the county out of money, share some of it with his “friends” and then lie about it to the FBI.
Claremore bank employees from 1st Bank and RCB, along with County District 3 employees, Bruce Long and Cindy Rash, along with Rash’s husband Brian took the stand in Baldrige’s federal trial.
Another 10 witnesses, including current District 2 Commissioner Mike Helm and retired District 1 commissioner Gerry Payne, are expected to take the stand today as prosecutors wrap up the presentation of evidence against Baldridge. Baldridge is facing eight federal indictments.
Cindy Rash, who still works as a receiving agent and secretary for District 3, resumed testimony continued from Monday’s appearance.
The government played a recorded telephone conversation between her and Baldridge which occurred in March 2006.
Baldridge asked her if “they” (the FBI) had been in contact with her or her husband Brian.
Rash answered yes but that she wasn’t present at that time.
Baldridge then asked if Rash was aware of what was said and she answered no, “I haven’t really talked about it all with him yet.”
Baldridge then asked her to call him back when she spoke with her husband.
“Consistency is everything,” Baldridge said. “It will all be fine.”
In another taped conversation, he advised Rash to “…hold your head high. We’ve done nothing
Moments later in the same conversation, however, Baldridge asked Rash for confirmation that checks made out to her husband had been picked up, not sent through the mail.
The conversation was recorded at the request of FBI Special Agent Dan Risner after he and other agents seized several documents from the District 3 Warehouse.
Defense cross-examination pointed out some inconsistencies in Cindy Rash’s statements both in court and to Risner during initial interviews with her in march 2006.
Rash previously told the jury that her husband had not performed any work Sue Baldridge’s home, located in Tiawah.
Testimony, from husband Brian Rash, revealed that Sue Baldridge and Cindy Rash had been friends since high school and had remained in that capacity over the years.
On cross-examination, Cindy Rash stated her husband had performed some work at Sue Baldridge’s residence “as a friend” after her father passed away.
Also brought out by court-appointed defense attorney Kevin Adams was Rash’s previous statement to the jury that she was not sure how to perform the duties of her job as receiving agent for District 3.
Adams cited Rash’s two years of college education, a promotion at a previous job at a Pryor computer software company where she earned $60,000 annually, her training by the previous receiving agent and a two-day class she had attended in November 2004 in Claremore.
Still, Rash stated she “sort of” understood how to be a receiving agent.
When Adams asked if Rash if she was “cheating the county” by filling out time sheets for work her husband performed at Sue Baldridge’s residence in order to receive payment from the county, Rash stated she knew it was a crime and she was cheating the county.
“You knew what you were doing was wrong?” asked Adams.
“Yes,” answered Rash.
“You knew it was a crime?” asked Adams.
“Yes,” Rash replied.
Brian Rash testified he knew what they were doing was wrong as well. “In your heart you know it’s not really right… it’s hard to turn it down.”
He said, at first, the “clean up” work at Sue Baldridge’s residence was done as a friend.
Jurors sometimes nodded as if in understanding as Brian shared his concerns and conflicted feelings regarding his work on private property and payment by the county.
“I just did the work,” said Rash. “I didn’t have anything to do with the paperwork.”
He said it wasn’t until some time later that then Commissioner Baldridge asked him to perform work for the county, “at Sue Baldridge’s place.”
Rash claimed that Baldridge came by frequently with directions while Rash was working at Sue’s and would give “directions on what he (Baldridge) wanted done.”
During a conversation recorded between Brian Rash and Baldridge, Rash asked if he should tell the FBI about the “work I did at Sue’s.”
“If they ask if you worked as Sue’s, tell them yeah but you worked there as a friend,” Baldridge replied.
Baldridge also told Rash to “pick different items for different roads” when giving an explanation to the FBI for work performed.
Rash admitted to lying to Special Agent Risner when first interviewed by the FBI at American Airlines. “Self preservation,” said Rash in explanation. “Cover your tail is most people’s first reaction…”
In a separate recorded conversation, Brian Rash told Baldridge he informed the FBI that he did some mowing and ditch cleaning “west of town ... and stuff like that, some box blading.”
He also told Baldridge that while the FBI agents were there, “actually it wasn’t a real big issue.”
“Everything I was paid was for work at Sue’s,” Rash said. He acknowledged that he was taking wife Cindy’s word for it that one of the $1,600 checks from the county had been cashed and given to Baldridge as a loan.
“I did not hand Mr. Baldridge money,” he said. Both Cindy and Brian Rash claimed they felt they had no choice but to loan the money to Baldridge because he is Cindy’s boss. Both claimed they had hoped for the loan to be repaid but that it had not been.
Adams was able to establish that at no time in the taped phone conversations did Rash say directly that he was working at the home of Baldridge’s sister for county money.
Prosecutors linked Baldridge to the internal money scam through several checking account bank statements and financial documents from others involved in the indictment.
Evidence was introduced showing the Rashes cashed a county check for $1,600 on Feb. 11 at 1st Bank. Nearly four hours later, Baldridge deposited $1,300 cash along with two other checks at RCB.
Another incidence included a cashier’s check from another unindicted co-conspirator Joseph Bentz, who was paid by the county for what the government is alleging “work not performed.”
In the Bentz’ instance, the cashier’s check was written to Baldridge for $700 after Bentz received a warrant (check) from Rogers County in the amount of $1,700 for “concrete work” on a bridge on County Road 52 in Tiawah.
Former Distrtict 3 Road Foreman Bruce Long testified there was no concrete work performed by Bentz.
“I oversaw all the concrete work because I knew a lot about it,” Long testified Tuesday afternoon. “As far as I knew, he had not done any concrete work.”
As far as work performed by county contractor Brian Rash, Long said he was aware that Rash had been at Sue Baldridge’s residence doing some work, but doubted that Rash had done any ditch work with his “small tractor.”
“If there’s any ditch work to be done ... county employees would do it,” Long said. “You cannot do ditch work very good with a small tractor like Brian’s. It would take four or five times as long and be hard on it.”
Also brought to issue with Long were two jobs in which he was directly involved.
One regarded some clean up of a county road right-of-way on Dog Creek Road that adjoined the property of Joe Brasier.
Brasier testified he spoke with both Baldridge and Long concerning the requested clean up of debris and brush, and Baldridge said it would be done. Brasier testified the clean up was performed on a track hoe by Long, and that it took about one day.
Brasier testified that the road foremean had done such a good job that he had offered Long a $50 tip, but that Long had declined the money.
Long told the jury it took him three days, approximately 24 hours, to perform the work.
However, the purchase order and receiving report shows another unindicted co-conspirator Brad Jones, who works with Brian Rash at American Airlines, performed the work over a five-day period at a total of 38 hours for $55 an hour.
“Randy Baldridge told me to find someone who would cash the check for me so it wouldn’t send up a red flag to the girls in the County Clerk’s office about me doing the contract work for the county,” Long stated. “So I explained it to Brad Jones and he said he would cash the check.”
Jones did in fact cash the $2,090 check and handed the money to Long.
Another instance involving Jones was the paving of a private driveway owned by Port of Catoosa director Bob Portiss.
According to testimony, Long stated the county was paving Ray Davis Road, which is the county road near Portiss’ residence.
“We were paving right in front of (Portiss’) house and Randy Baldridge called and asked how much Bunker, the Bellco foreman, would charge to pave his driveway,” Long said. “Bunker said $2,200 and Randy said that was too much, but told me to tell Bunker to do it anyway.”
The driveway was paved by the Bellco foreman, and Baldridge informed Portiss to make the check payable to Jones.
“Then Randy brought me the check and I took it to Brad Jones and explained to him that my boss needed him to cash the check,” Long said. “Brad said ‘why’ and ‘what for’ and I explained to him that my boss just needed him to cash it, and he could keep a couple hundred for himself. So he did.”
Long stated Jones did keep $200, and then gave the remainder of the money to Baldridge, who in turn gave Long $300 to give to Bunker, the Bellco foreman.
“How much of that money did you keep,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Joseph Wilson asked Long.
“None,” Long replied.
The cross examination of Long is expected to resume this morning, and the government stated it may rest its case this evening.
Baldridge is expected to take the stand in his own defense.
Defense attorney Adams and Federal Judge Terence Kern have both said the entire trial is expected to end by Friday.
By Staff Writers