Former Burns Municipal Airport Manager Sentenced to Probation for Stealing Surplus Federal Property
EUGENE, Ore.—Jeffrey Robert Cotton, 45, the former Manager of the Burns Municipal Airport in Burns, Oregon, was sentenced today to 4 years’ probation and 300 hours of community service for stealing thousands of dollars of equipment that rightfully belonged to the City of Burns, by converting to his personal use property acquired through the Federal Personal Property Utilization Program.
The Federal Personal Property Utilization Program is intended to benefit state and local governments and eligible organizations by giving them property the federal government no longer needs at no cost.
According to court documents, between 2014 and 2016, Cotton acquired, allegedly on behalf of the airport, numerous pieces of federal excess property including a heater/air conditioner, commercial lighting sets and various trucks and vans, tractors, and other heavy equipment.
Throughout the acquisition process, Cotton failed to fully inform or notify the City of Burns, its mayor, city manager or city council of the federal excess property obtained on its behalf. Instead, Cotton illegally converted much of the property to his personal use, either by titling property in his own name or transferring the property to Emergency Equipment Solutions, Inc. (EES), a nonprofit fully owned and operated by Cotton.
When confronted with the theft, Cotton lied and misrepresented information regarding how he had obtained the property. Additionally, Cotton signed phony bills of sale falsely representing that EES had purchased the property. Records show thousands of dollars were transferred from EES to Cotton personally.
On April 11, 2019, Cotton pleaded guilty to two counts of theft from a local government receiving federal funds.
This case was investigated by the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General and the FBI, and was prosecuted by Gavin W. Bruce, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.