A former Platte County employee charged with stealing from taxpayer funds has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge — but only after an unusual delay.
Kenneth M. Bozenhardt, 54, appeared in court on Friday, Jan. 6 to agree to a plea arrangement. The court originally accepted and found him guilty of a Class D felony or fraudulent use of a credit device, stemming from a charge filed in August that he allegedly made personal purchases on a county credit and business card. Some of those purchases were used to buy materials to construct and decorate a beer garden at his Platte County home.
The court suspended Bozenhardt’s sentence and placed him on three years probation in addition to restitution of $1,295 and a $75 prosecuting attorney fee.
However, Platte County Sheriff’s Office deputies during fingerprinting reported the odor of alcohol on Bozenhardt’s person. A court-ordered test showed a blood-alcohol level of .078 — just under the legal limit to drive in Missouri.
The court presumed Bozenhardt intoxicated at the time of his plea and therefore set aside the plea. He was taken into custody.
Bozenhardt lost his job as director of facilities for Platte County in August after allegations surfaced that he spent more than $1,000 on various personal items over a period of 15 months using county funds. Other details in court documents reveal an unreceipted credit card purchase at a local gas station that he originally told county officials was for “doughnuts for the men” that turned out to be a bottle of Sailor Jerry brand spiced rum.
Due to Bozenhardt’s employment with the county, Zahnd sought a special prosecutor, and the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office handled the case.
According to court documents, Platte County auditor Kevin Robinson notified authorities on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016 of personal expenditures Bozenhardt made on the county’s business account at The Home Depot. The purchases occurred between early May and late June and included lumber, potting planters, potting pebbles, plant brackets, a watering can and a sun shade.
When asked about the purchases, Bozenhardt allegedly said the items, totaling more than $350, were used for various county projects.
However, interviews with facilities employees could not verify those claims, and a purchase made on a Sunday went outside of normal business practices. According to court documents, Bozenhardt even brought the sun shade to the facilities department to use during a law enforcement appreciation cookout.
Bozenhardt also allegedly told employees about building his beer garden and bragged about using the sun shade on that part of his property.
Prior to making the purchases allegedly used on his beer garden, Bozenhardt also allegedly used county funds to make various purchases. Court documents show county invoices for a welder valued at nearly $300 in May of 2015 and a tool cabinet valued at nearly $100 in November of 2015. In April of 2016, Bozenhardt purchased a nearly $300 Toro lawnmower with county funds.
None of those items appeared in the county inventory at the time of the investigation.
Platte County commissioners paid out all of the invoices following standard protocol. County procedures require signatures of at least two commissioners before any payment requisition is paid.
In addition to the invoice purchases, investigators contacted a local convenience store about a purchase of $16.89 made on July 7 of this year with a county credit card. According to court documents, Bozenhardt allegedly told Robinson the money was spent on doughnuts at 6:14 a.m. despite not having a receipt.
However, an employee at the convenience store found the transaction was for a 750 ml bottle of Sailor Jerry spiced rum, which cost $15.99 plus tax.
According to court documents, Bozenhardt allegedly told investigators that he intended to repay the money. Investigators recovered the property purchased on the county’s business account at The Home Depot while serving a search warrant at his home in a rural part of Platte County west of Platte City.