Jeffrey P. Lee

Jeffrey P. Lee

FLAGSTAFF — On Nov. 17 in the Coconino County Superior Court, former Navajo County Public Health Director Jeffrey P. Lee was sentenced to nine months in jail and 11 years of supervised probation for three felony crimes he committed while serving as Coconino County’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Manager.

Lee pleaded guilty to in September by way of a plea agreement; and the other 12 felony counts and one misdemeanor count contained in a grand jury indictment filed against him on Dec. 15, 2020, were dismissed. Coconino Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols was assigned the case.

Before his tenure with Navajo County, (March 2018 to September 2019) Lee served in Coconino County. The counts he admitted guilt to are: Count 1, for violating his duties as a custodian of public monies, a Class 4 felony committed in July 2013 and April 2017 while at Coconino County; Count 2, Theft, a Class 3 Felony, committed between October 2014 and December 2016 while at Coconino County and Count 14, another count of violating his duty as a custodian of public monies committed in March 2018 and September 2019 while he was working for Navajo County.

The public started to learn about the case in May 2020, when the Independent reported on an audit by the Arizona Auditor General about irregular charges Lee made to Navajo County in fiscal year 2019. To resolve the problems the audit identified, Lee repaid to that county a net amount of $3,965 which was the total of improperly claimed expenses the audit identified, less legitimate mileage expenses Lee was entitled to but never asked reimbursement for.

But in the meantime, the same Auditor General started looking into Lee’s time with Coconino County. Count one of the indictment reflects the audit’s finding that Lee made 237 personal purchases totaling about $82,500 in the timeframe described above. Items purchased were said to include gift cards, family cell phones, clothing, camping products, tools, electronics, an Apple watch, a clothes dryer, a freezer and other items.

The theft charge seemingly relate to purchases while he was at Coconino County as well. For example, apparently Lee had the county pay a boat storage place for 14 months, claiming that “emergency supplies” for the county were stored there. The auditor says it was a “27’ travel trailer,” and Lee’s home address was on the lease; Coconino County was not.

The third count Count 14 regards activity in Navajo County wherein Lee used a county credit card for things like hotel rooms, conference fees, out of state airfare and meals. At the end of the audit about his activities in Navajo County, as stated, he paid back most of the money. The State of Arizona was represented by Assistant Attorney General Mary Harriss. Lee’s counsel was Ryan J. Stevens of the Griffen & Stevens Law PLLC Firm of Flagstaff.

The plea agreement gave the judge some options with regard to sending Lee to prison. He could have been sentenced to a term in prison for 1.5 to 3.75 years on one of the charges; For counts 1 and 2 the parties agreed that Lee would avoid prison and would be placed on probation with terms such as paying $84,3312 in restitution to the counties — $1,762 to Navajo, and the rest to Coconino. In the event the court sentenced him to probation on the third charge, the parties agreed that Lee would at least serve nine months in the county jail, and that’s exactly what the judge did. Probation will last for 11 years and will include “white collar terms” like paying back the money. He will have to provide a sample of his DNA pursuant to law, to be kept in a law enforcement database.

Reach the reporter at rlynch@wmicentral.com

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