Columbus city worker once involved in affairs with bosses charged with taking $12,600

Marsha Jean Thomas
Marsha Jean Thomas

The Columbus Inspections and Codes worker who had an affair with a deputy city manager before his abrupt retirement in 2015 was arrested Tuesday on charges of taking money from a local inspectors’ association.

Marsha Jean Thomas, 37, was charged with theft by deception for allegedly taking $12,671.18 from the West Georgia Inspectors Association, according to her arrest report. The thefts occurred between June 1 and Nov. 1, police said.

Investigators said Thomas served as treasurer of the local organization, and she is alleged to have used its credit card for her own personal expenses. The association includes area inspectors who meet to share their expertise, and it occasionally provides specialized training to help them maintain the certification required for their profession. It also offers college scholarships for members’ children.

John Hudgison, president of the association, and Robert Smith, the vice president, reported the theft at the police department Tuesday, authorities said. The police headquarters in the Columbus Public Safety Center is right across the street from the 420 10th St. Government Center Annex where Thomas works as inspectors service coordinator.

Thomas turned herself in about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Public Safety Center, and later was released on $13,000 bond, according to police and Muscogee County Jail records. Her Recorder’s Court hearing is set for 9 a.m. Thursday.

After then-Deputy City Manager David Arrington retired on short notice March 31, 2015, the Ledger-Enquirer through an open-records request discovered he’d had an affair with Thomas while he was interim director of inspections and codes.

The records revealed also that Thomas had an earlier affair with an inspections and codes assistant director before he left the department in April 2012.

Thomas since has retained her position, in 2015 earning $33,600 a year. City officials Wednesday did not respond to Ledger-Enquirer inquiries regarding Thomas’ length of service with the city and her current salary.

The scandal

Her affair with Arrington came to light when Arrington’s wife, another city employee, confronted him after finding an iPhone that Thomas had given him so they could communicate privately, without using city-issued phones, according to city records.

The personnel records revealed Thomas called the phone on March 9, 2015, when Arrington didn’t show for a meeting, and Arrington’s wife answered and “told her that David was using her and that she was just a fling.”

Both Thomas and Arrington said their relationship was consensual, and not predicated upon their supervisor-employee work status, but it violated city policy.

“We have city-wide policies in place to address such issues, and we apply them across the board,” Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said in response to the Ledger-Enquirer investigation. “It’s one of those things that we have to apply to keep order and keep everybody’s mind on the job.”

Hudgison, who now heads inspections and codes, said Wednesday that he could not comment on Thomas’ current employment status.

“This is all new to me,” he said. “I don’t have a statement on it.”

Arrington’s position was filled by Pam Hodge, formerly the city’s finance director.

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