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.
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.”