Documents released by the city of Killeen this month give a detailed account of a culture of theft in the city’s motor pool over the past eight years.
An internal audit performed in October indicated that in eight years, 2,730 gallons of diesel fuel and 48 tires went missing from the fleet services division inventory. The fuel was valued at $7,819.
Fleet services is responsible for all city vehicles, including fire trucks and police cars.
Tools, oil, vehicle parts, a car wash container and a golf cart also were reported missing during video-taped interrogations of 24 motor pool employees; no evidence was found supporting the golf cart theft.
The Daily Herald obtained Killeen Police Department investigation documents through requests made under the Texas Public Information Act.
The two-month investigation was sparked by the Sept. 28 traffic stop of former fleet services mechanic David Riddle near Elms Road, less than a mile from the Fleet Services Division building.
Riddle was pulled over for allegedly stealing an engine valued at $600 from the city’s mechanic shop.
City policy requires that all equipment no longer of use to the city be sold through public auction.
Riddle confessed to the theft and resigned Dec. 13.
The same day, under pressure from City Hall, Fleet Services Director Kim Randall retired, and City Manager Glenn Morrison fired former finance director Barbara Gonzales and fleet services mechanic John Acker.
No criminal charges were filed against any city employees, although police documents indicate widespread theft in the division.
Almost every (fleet services) employee was directly involved or knew someone who had used the city’s fleet services facilities for personal use and this culture appeared to be occurring for some time, the report said.
Acker and Gonzales both filed lawsuits against the city under the Texas Whistleblower Act. Gonzales is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in compensatory damages from the city.
Signs of the theft were not well documented until a few months before the investigation began.
On July 19, Randall received an email from a fleet services supervisor reporting stolen gas, however, there is no indication she took action to stop it, according to the police report.
A fuel inventory for a fire truck under Riddle’s purview and based at Skylark Field received hundreds of gallons of fuel that it did not need, according to the city’s internal audit.
It appears that approximately 914 gallons of fuel are unaccounted for that Riddle was responsible for, the report said.
About 120 gallons of diesel fuel went missing under Acker’s authority, according to the internal auditor’s findings.
Attorney Bill Aleshire, who represents Acker and Gonzales, said the police investigation was targeted at his clients.
“The investigation is best described as an incomplete conjecture that gives absolutely false, if not defamatory allegations,” Aleshire said.
“No detail is provided that you could make the kind of conclusions that they made, particularly to point the finger at any individuals.”
Although Gonzales was fired the same day as the other fleet services employees, in public statements, the city has been careful not to link Gonzales to the fleet services thefts.
Her termination letter states her reason for firing as, “a number of issues that have occurred under your management.”
A colleague in the finance department reportedly told police that Gonzales spent an “unusually large amount of her time, 30 percent or so, at fleet (services).”
The former finance director’s lawsuit places scrutiny on the city’s organization of the internal auditor position directly under the city manager and not under the Killeen City Council.
Gonzales and Acker appealed their terminations in addition to the lawsuits. Their appeal hearings are scheduled for April 24 and May 7, respectively. The hearings are open to the public.
Contact Brandon Janes at email@example.com or (254) 501-7552