Former deputy pleads not guilty to felony charges

A former deputy with the Carroll County Sheriff’s office pleaded not guilty on Monday, Jan. 8, in Carroll County Circuit Court to multiple charges stemming from allegations that he submitted false timesheets.

Blake Gordon Ringberg, 53, is charged with 11 counts of tampering with a public record, nine counts of abuse of office, five counts of second- degree forgery and a single count of theft of property. All of the charges are felonies.

Ringberg appeared briefly before Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson on Monday at the Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville. He was accompanied by his attorney, Chris Flanagin. Jackson accepted Ringberg’s plea and scheduled an omnibus hearing for 9 a.m. Monday, March 11, at the Western District Courthouse in Eureka Springs.

Ringberg was arrested Dec. 14 after an Arkansas State Police investigation.

An arrest affidavit, written by ASP Special Agent Jana Cordes, said the ASP’s Criminal Investigation Division was contacted on Sept. 14, 2022, by the Carroll County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor’s office requested an investigation into money “missing” from the selective traffic enforcement program (S.T.E.P.) program at the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the affidavit, the prosecutor’s office said Ringberg and another deputy had been collecting S.T.E.P. overtime money without proper documentation in 2022. The Carroll County Clerk estimated the grand total to be $11,622.36.

S.T.E.P. is a federally funded grant administered by the ASP, the affidavit says. The grant requires law enforcement officers to conduct traffic stops and write citations for various offenses. Officers are required to keep a daily log of vehicles and persons stopped and whether those drivers are issued a citation or a warning.

“Each department has a coordinator for the S.T.E.P. program and his/her job is to keep the records for three years and to oversee that the officers working S.T.E.P. are properly documenting and writing citations/ warnings correctly,” the affidavit says. “The coordinator is also responsible for reporting all hours worked to the Arkansas State Police.”

Ringberg was the S.T.E.P. coordinator for the sheriff’s office, the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, a state auditor based in Harrison, Lance Woodward, told ASP Special Agent Drew Widner that he had received “minimal information” from Ringberg.

“Lance Woodward stated he requested the proper documentation for the 2022 S.T.E.P. program from Blake Ringberg,” the affidavit says. “Lance Woodward said Blake Ringberg brought child support papers from Texas, and the S.T.E.P. agreement which was signed by Blake Ringberg. The worksheets showing time, dates and vehicles stopped by the deputies working the S.T.E.P. program for year 2022 have not been given to Lance Woodward to this date.”

The county clerk’s office produced the time sheets for Ringberg and another deputy for the year 2022, the affidavit says, while the ASP produced the hours and dates worked for each deputy who participated in the S.T.E.P. program in 2022. The sheriff’s office provided radio logs for 2022. The affidavit says there are no radio log entries, written warnings or citations issued by Ringberg or another deputy for S.T.E.P. hours that were claimed to have been worked in 2022.

During an interview with Widner, the affidavit says, Ringberg said he did not use S.T.E.P. to write tickets. The other deputy told Widner that she never worked S.T.E.P. overtime in 2022 and did not turn in timesheets or paperwork for the program.

“All other deputies that claimed S.T.E.P. overtime for the year 2022 have citations that were written, and traffic stops recorded on radio logs,” the affidavit says.

The state police conduct random audits on the daily worksheets for the S.T.E.P. coordinators, according to the affidavit. An audit on Ringberg for Feb. 12, 2022, showed that Ringberg claimed to have worked six hours and conducted 15 traffic stops.

“Two individuals that know Blake Ringberg were contacted from the list and they both denied ever being stopped by Blake Ringberg ever,” the affidavit says.

Ringberg worked for the sheriff’s office from January 30, 2018, until resigning during the ASP investigation. He later worked for the Eureka Springs Police Department. ESPD Chief Billy Floyd said Ringberg was suspended without pay in March, because of the ASP investigation, and resigned in June.

After Ringberg’s arrest, Carroll County Sheriff Daniel Klatt referred questions to the ASP.