• December 24, 2014

Fired city mechanic: Thefts date back to ’94

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Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:00 pm, Wed May 15, 2013.

More than 100 items stolen from the Killeen motor pool over several decades were gathered during a one-week amnesty period set up by the police chief in October.

Nearly 20 employees who participated in the amnesty, and who reportedly stole from the city, have returned to work at the Fleet Services Division without punishment.

Items stolen from the facility over the past two decades include a camera, 22 used tires, cans of paint, tool boxes, brake fluid and the exhaust system to a Crown Victoria police car.

Eighteen of the total 26 fleet services employees were given a “written warning,” for participating in the misappropriation of city property and conducting personal vehicle repairs with city equipment and materials, according to city documents.

Four employees were “respectfully reminded” not to take materials from the city or use the city equipment for work on personal items.

However, another four fleet services employees lost their jobs: mechanic John Acker, who was fired; David Riddle and Ricky Duggers, who resigned; and Killeen Fleet Services Director Kim Randall, who retired.

One police officer, Michael Watts, allegedly took his personal boat engine to be repaired at the shop in August.

Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said during a city personnel hearing Tuesday, that he counseled Watts but could not issue further reprimands because Watts did not know the rules of the shop.

“It’s kind of hard to hold him to a standard that he had no knowledge of,” Baldwin said.

Acker’s attorney, Bill Aleshire, said the city targeted Acker, Riddle, Randall and another client — fired city finance director Barbara Gonzales — from the onset of the investigation.

Acker did not participate in the amnesty because he was placed on administrative leave — pending the investigation — five days before Baldwin announced the amnesty to Fleet Services employees.

“In all of the hearings, I don’t think (the city attorneys) gave an explanation why these four individuals were targeted for termination,” Aleshire said.

“It wasn’t fair treatment of John Acker.”

Acker, who appealed his termination on Tuesday, felt he had taken the fall for the scandal, which involved at least 22 other people.

“There were so many people who did more than I did and all they got was a little slap on the hand,” Acker said.

During the hearing, employee grievance board members questioned why other employees were not fired.

“We could not fire the entire Fleet Services department; that would shut down the entire city, especially with regard to public safety,” Assistant City Attorney Jerris Mapes said.

Mapes said although all of the employees signed written warnings in February, some of the employees were still under “pending discipline.”

Culture of theft

During his video-taped interview with the Killeen Police Department, Acker said the thefts had been going on at the motor pool since he started working for the city in 1994.

The thefts were clearly a problem when former Fleet Services Director John Strickland was in charge.

Strickland was caught using city materials and equipment to perform machine and engine work on his daughter’s vehicle. He resigned and was later convicted of theft under $500 in Bell County District Court.

From interviews, it appears many people took advantage of the lack of oversight.

Several Fleet Service employees told the story of Donald “Mushy” Moss, who would come into the facility twice a week for at least six years and take used tires.

The history of theft came to an end on Sept. 28, 2012, when Riddle drove off with a Dodge truck engine valued at $400 and a Fleet Services supervisor turned him in.

Police call

Fleet Services facility supervisor Tommie Allen also participated in the misconduct, according to the police investigation.

Acker said Allen was present when he and Riddle dismantled the I-beam cylinder rack — the act which, according to Acker’s termination letter, led to his firing. The metal was later used by Riddle to make a trailer.

Acker said he remembered an incident when Allen took wheels, tires and other parts from a Crown Victoria.

“No one took more than Tommie Allen,” Acker said.

At the hearing Tuesday, Baldwin said it was Allen who made the call reporting the engine theft Sept. 28, which led to the police investigation of Fleet Services.

“The same circumstances for Tommie Allen do not apply to Mr. Acker,” Baldwin said. “No one came to the Killeen police to tell us about the wrongdoing except Mr. Allen.”

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11 comments:

  • Max67 posted at 8:18 am on Mon, May 13, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    The standards applied to the citizens do not apply to the police. They tend to think they're above them.

    If Baldwin knew it was wrong when he conducted/led the investigation, why wouldn't his OWN officers know? If you read the lawsuit, you can tell they knew and that they got mad at Acker. Their anger about him being forthright about Watts was apparently noticeable in the video-taped interview of Acker. We'll all want to see those interviews once the trial begins. I think much more will come out - info the citizens need to be made aware of.

     
  • Whatabouthetruth posted at 10:55 pm on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Whatabouthetruth Posts: 3

    I just love how Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said during a city personnel hearing Tuesday, that he counseled Watts but could not issue further reprimands because Watts did not know the rules of the shop. Someone please explain to me what made Watts think he could have his personal boat worked on by city employees or use the facilities? Know wonder why people don't trust police. If Chief Baldwin will protect his officers that abuse city resources make no doubt he'll protect them when they lie.

     
  • Max67 posted at 10:30 pm on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    I doubt anyone is still looking at this article, but in case you are, it's a very good idea to read Acker's lawsuit at:

    http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/kdhnews.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/d2/5d2a597e-8dd4-11e2-93d0-0019bb30f31a/5143c5c7ced8f.pdf.pdf

    (You have to cut and paste the link.). It's very insightful and provides the additional info that helps fill in the gaps.

     
  • Eliza posted at 1:01 pm on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 901

    The law should be perfectly clear to a police officer, that city services that the tax payer is paying for is not to be used for personal benefit or personal gain.
    Even a rookie should know the difference.
    What's questionable since this has been brought about, is how many city employees have received the same services from the same.

    If this is one of the subjects being argued and which Ms. Gonzales tried to report, with the consequence being, she lost her job.
    Add that onto the other allegations in her Whistle Blowers court documents, It would have to be seem by many as she was fighting a losing battle.
    Which can be proven by her loss of employment.

    How could she be expected to know what was going on in an area that was not her normal work site and report it, When with all the supervision that were onsite, hadn't in all the years the stealing of service, time and property.

     
  • Max67 posted at 10:37 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    And shouldn't the law be one of the few things an officer of the law should be knowledgeable of? (Especially city law - for a city law officer?)

     
  • Eliza posted at 9:38 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 901

    @Concerning KPD police officer, “It’s kind of hard to hold him to a standard that he had no knowledge of,” Baldwin said.


    Ignorance of the Law (of not taking advantage of city services at tax payer expense)
    is no excuse.

    In the criminal law, although ignorance may not clear a defendant of guilt, it can be a consideration in sentencing, particularly where the law is unclear.

     
  • Max67 posted at 8:57 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    They weren't worried about the thefts or they wouldn't have given almost everyone a warning and some no warning at all, even though their offenses were more egregious.

    If a long-term police officer isn't aware that it's unacceptable to use city employees and resources to work on his boat engine, especially after the past conviction of the former director Strickland, he probably shouldn't be considered smart enough to be allowed to carry a gun and have a set of handcuffs, unless maybe he carries his bullet in his left pocket like Barney Fife.

     
  • Max67 posted at 8:56 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    The real reason they didn't give Officer Watts anything more than an oral counseling (no written warning) is because anything more serious could show up on his TCLEOSE record, which would hurt the city, since using him as a witness from that point forward could always be questioned. They try to keep anything off that record, as officers are no longer any good as witnesses, which is a serious problem for the city.

    The truth is that everyone knew people took scrap metal from the recycling bin and old partially used cans of oil, rather than disposing of the oil at a cost. That's not necessarily good, but if it's a problem, why not address it with everyone in an equal manner?

    The truth is that everyone took things, but only Acker told on the cop early on when he was interviewed by the police chief. That's why he was placed on leave at the very beginning and held accountable for the scarp metal pieces, while people who took much larger items still report to work every day and are entrusted w/ resources. (He was excluded from the amnesty period, which applied to others who took more items, including Allen, who was stated to have taken more than anyone and is still there.)

     
  • Max67 posted at 8:54 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    They also only brought back old items that they thought were safe to have been taken (primarily used items from the recycle bin), what about larger items that could've been taken, but never surfaced? Of course they're not going to bring those items in.

    Are we to think it's OK because they had a "talking to." If a police officer has absolutely no awareness of a standard, why would the other employees be expected to be aware of it, especially when they observe the police officer do it? Something doesn't add up here - or maybe of does, but for a completely different explanation than the one given by the city.

    Ethics training is always based on one principle, which is that ethics starts at the highest level and works it's way down. If people at the top don't make ethics a high priority, that same perception can work its way down through the business/entity.

    It sounds like ethics wasn't a priority for the city manager or the police chief, either, which gives it less weight with employees, including the police officers, who need to be held to the higher standard of ethics. I think they had more power to improve things and hold people accountable and should have been the ones to be let go. There's still time...

     
  • Proud Mother of an Army Avi8er posted at 7:26 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Proud Mother of an Army Avi8er Posts: 255

    Oh I get it...they were Robin Hoods...stealing from rich to give to the poor.

     
  • Proud Mother of an Army Avi8er posted at 7:21 am on Sun, May 12, 2013.

    Proud Mother of an Army Avi8er Posts: 255

    City employees are allowed an amnesty period set up by the police chief and have returned to work at the Fleet Services Division WITHOUT punishment.....Hmm
    The criminals should be held accountable for their actions...at the very least they should be fired. Who wants an employee to remain on...if they are stealing.
    Only in Killeen...

    Why are city employees allowed an amnesty period for stealing?
    Can all thieves get an amnesty period...it think not.


    Breaking the law is wrong and the city should not allow an "Amnesty" period for any criminal. To include...city employees.
    What an example the city has set.
    This is why there are so many problems within the city government.