PALATKA, Fla. – A Putnam County School Board member accused of shoplifting could be seen standing in downtown Palatka Friday morning carrying a sign that said, “I stole from a local store.”
The public display was part of a pre-trial intervention agreement the state offered to Nikki Cummings last month following her June arrest on a felony grand theft charge.
But even though Cummings, 41, will avoid prosecution if she successfully completes the terms of that agreement, friends and loved ones believe the public humiliation is unfair.
“She has done countless good deeds and the thing that breaks my heart the most is if someone makes a mistake in life, whether they mean to or not, no one remembers the good people do,” said friend Cathy Campbell.
“They jump on the evil,” she added.
Gov. Rick Scott suspended Cummings in July after her arrest. She was accused of nearly leaving a Palatka Walmart with $420 in merchandise, despite only ringing up $32 in items at a self-checkout lane.
Detectives later found Cummings used the same checkout lane May 30 and left the store with two fishing poles she had not paid for, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.
While she’s charged with a third-degree felony, Cummings won’t be prosecuted if she fulfills a list of requirements detailed in a pre-trial agreement filed Sept. 25.
Friday’s sign-toting display was part of that agreement. Other requirements include paying $65 to Walmart, enrolling in an anti-theft class and writing an apology to Putnam County students.
Cummings’ father, John Musley, did not wish to discuss his daughter’s punishment with News4Jax. “I want to know why you’re doing this to my daughter,” said Musley, who declined to answer a reporter’s questions.
Campbell, a family friend, said Cummings – a mother with two young children – has been treated unfairly.
“Ms. Cummings is fulfilling an obligation given to her, but I’ve known Ms. Cummings her entire life and she has done so much good,” she said. “She has fed hungry children at every school in this county.”