Judge denies bond to former Ivor clerk

Published 1:13 pm Monday, October 7, 2019

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Judge William R. Savage turned down a former Ivor town clerk’s plea for bond during a hearing on Friday morning in the Southampton District Court. This decision requires Jennifer M. Bumgardner of Zuni to begin fulfilling her one-year sentence of active incarceration. She is ordered to report to the Southampton County Jail on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 8, and later will be taken to another facility, not yet determined.

Bumgardner had been found guilty on June 18 of multiple counts of embezzling as much as (potentially) $84,000-plus from the Town of Ivor over the past several years. In 2018, the newly-elected town mayor, Tara Kea, had discovered discrepancies in the bookkeeping, which led to an investigation, arrest and trial of Bumgardner, who also served as treasurer. In addition to the imprisonment, Savage also decreed that the former clerk pay $40,000 in restitution, and stay on probation for five years immediately following her release.

She had hoped to avoid imprisonment while waiting to make an appeal on the judge’s verdict.

Paul Fritzinger, who was Bumgardner’s attorney at the hearing, called three witnesses, the first of which was her husband, Thomas Bumgardner III. Seated nearby was his wife, who was seen quaking and heard crying throughout the hearing. Married for 16 years, he said, the couple has three children who are 22, 13 and 9 years old. Thomas Bumgardner works at a 40-60-hour job in Smithfield, and she was available closer to home for the two youngest. The father said they have no family in the area; they are living in West Virginia from where they moved 14 years ago. If his wife is imprisoned, there will be no one to “take up the slack” in taking care of their school-age children. That situation, he added, would be “a struggle.” Thomas Bumgardner added that he might have to quit his job and move the family back.

Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Toni Colvin said the family had three months from the time Jennifer Bumgardner was found guilty to make arrangements. She asked the man, “Now you say you need more time? What friends have you asked? Did you ask the schools about after-school programs [such as the YMCA]?”

Next on the stand was Charlie Phelps, a retired sheriff for Isle of Wight County, who said he’s known the Bumgardners for about 14 to 15 years. The two men are both in the same fraternal organization. His bond with the family is such that he’s called “Uncle Charlie” by the children. He’s especially concerned for their welfare if the mother were to be incarcerated. He said he believes that she is a safe risk — that she won’t flee if the bond were granted.

Melissa Routten said Jennifer Bumgardner had been working part-time at Checkers Restaurant in the Windsor area since February 2016, and would “jump in where needed,” and added, “She’s very family-oriented. I don’t want to lose Jennifer.”

Letters of support were also submitted to the judge for consideration. In his closing arguments, Fritzinger acknowledged that a bond hearing for an appeal is usually denied, but believes that extraordinary evidence should be considered in this case. If Bumgardner is incarcerated for a year, and then an appeal is later successful, she will have served “a year for nothing,” adding there would be “irrevocable impacts.” Should the bond be granted, but the appeal fails, she would then serve the year and “the court has lost nothing. The court can avoid the impact on the kids.”

Colvin agreed that bond hearings are rare, and said, “She should have considered that when stealing from Ivor. She should have made better arrangements [for her family].”

The deputy attorney said all that’s been heard are excuses and that the “evidence is clear … There is concern for flight to West Virginia.”

It was also noted by Colvin that Bumgardner “used the trust that people had in her. She used those attributes to her advantage. The Commonwealth Attorney opposes the bond.”

The judge concluded that the “court has heard plenty and the Commonwealth Attorney has asked the bail be revoked several times. The case was well tried by the defense …. Likely the appeal will not be successful … She will serve like any other [inaudible].”