Ventura County – One might think that public libraries are oases of tranquility in a world where crime often feels as though it’s running rampant through our communities. One might be surprised, then, to learn that libraries, where tax funds, fees, and book fines are apparently still significant sources of income despite the fact that most reading material can be found online today, may be just as likely the target of criminal intent as your local convenience store.
This reality was made public with the Thursday, October 22nd arrest of Tammy Jean Ferguson, a 55-year-old resident of Santa Paula and a longtime employee of the Blanchard Community Library in Santa Paula. According to Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten, Ferguson has been employed by the library since 1993, and from 2003 through 2013 “was the library’s sole financial officer.” It was during this decade of financial stewardship that investigators determined Ferguson “embezzled money using the library-issued credit card for personal purchases” in a complex series of transactions shifting funds to her personal credit card and then withdrawing cash from local ATMs.
The investigation into Ferguson’s criminal activities arose pursuant to a series of employment contract disputes, budgetary shortfalls, and allegations of malfeasance on the part of those who followed in her managerial footsteps. When one such employee prevailed in a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, the library board discovered $750,000 of “missing money,” ultimately traced to Ferguson.
According to Totten, Ferguson was arrested on charges of felony embezzlement and grand larceny, with her bail set at $40,000.