Dive team suspended after arrests
Two volunteer members accused of theft of services
BENTONVILLE — The Benton County Dive Team has suspended operations after the arrest of two members in connection with theft of services.
Chris Perry and James Downum were volunteers on the dive team, said Sgt. Shannon Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office. They were arrested Thursday in connection with theft of services. They are accused of using the dive team’s equipment for personal business.
Perry and Downum were released on citation. Their arraignments are at 8 a.m. Sept. 11 in Circuit Judge Brad Karren’s court.
Robert McGowen, emergency services administrator, said Perry and Downum were arrested after they allegedly used a county pontoon boat and diving equipment to raise a sunken boat for another individual and were paid for the work.
The dive team operates under an independent board, whose members are appointed by the county judge. Vester Cripps, Gentry fire chief and a member of the board, said the dive team is suspended indefinitely while the board tries to reorganize the operation. The county will use the services of the Tri-County dive team in the interim, Cripps said. The Tri-County team covers Carroll, Madison and Newton counties, McGowen said.
“We’ve used Tri-County in the past to assist us,” Cripps said. “We’ve got a good relationship with
The dive team operates under an independent board, whose members are appointed by the county judge.
them and they’re well-qualified.”
The dive team board was established in 2009 after conflicts arose between the two dive teams operating in the county. An ordinance created a board to be appointed by the county judge. The board will now move to dissolve and have the dive team placed under the authority of the Sheriff’s Office, Cripps said.
“The board voted to suspend all the operations of the current team,” Cripps said. “We’re going to visit with the Quorum Court in regards to that ordinance. We are proposing to shift all of that operation under the Sheriff’s Office.”
Brenda Guenther, comptroller, said the county has $57,500 budgeted for the dive team in 2017. Of that, $500 goes to cover the cost of insurance for the volunteers and the remainder is for supplies and other services, she said.
County Judge Barry Moehring said he supports the idea of having the dive team shifted to the Sheriff’s Office.
“That has been discussed and I would support that,” he said. “I think at this point that
it is very appropriate that the Benton County Dive Team be within the Sheriff’s Office command and control over their board, and they should
also be able to be called out by the Sheriff’s Office as needed. I fully support the Sheriffs Office’s ability to do that. They’ll do a great job.”