• December 21, 2014

Lawyer: Acker’s mistakes no worse than others

Killeen Personnel Hearing Board questions fairness of mechanic’s firing by police chief

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Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:00 pm, Wed May 15, 2013.

A 3½-hour hearing of the Killeen Personnel Hearing Board on Tuesday questioned the fairness of the police chief’s firing of mechanic John Acker, who admitted in October to stealing from the city’s motor pool.

The five-member panel has five days to submit a recommendation to Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison, who has 30 days to reject or approve the panel’s decision.

A city employee of 18 years, Acker was one of 24 fleet services workers interrogated by Killeen police investigators in fall 2012 after police uncovered a culture of theft and mismanagement at the Fleet Services Division.

Four fleet employees — Fleet Services Director Kim Randall, mechanic David Riddle, Acker and another mechanic — lost their jobs as a result of the investigation.

Killeen finance director Barbara Gonzales also was fired in the wake of the fleet services scandal. Randall and Riddle resigned.

Both Acker and Gonzales filed lawsuits against the city under the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Acker’s lawyer, Bill Aleshire, asked the city Tuesday why only his client was fired if the investigation revealed that every fleet services employee and one police officer had participated in the motor pool thefts.

“Mr. Acker made some mistakes, but the mistakes he made were no worse than the others, yet he was fired,” Aleshire said. “He did not deserve the treatment he got, and that treatment was harsher than the treatment of other employees.”

Killeen Assistant City Attorney Jerris Mapes surprised the panel with evidence of Acker’s involvement in another theft in 2002.

According to a document, signed by Acker, the mechanic helped former Fleet Services Director John Strickland use city materials and equipment to modify Strickland’s daughter’s vehicle in August 2002.

Strickland resigned and was convicted of a misdemeanor in a criminal court, Mapes said.

Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said Acker was read his Miranda rights before the interview, in which he confessed to removing scrap metal and oil and doing personal mechanic work while on duty without permission.

He also confessed to assisting Riddle in disassembling a hydraulic cylinder rack and loading it onto Riddle’s personally owned vehicle.

Amnesty period

After Acker was placed on administrative leave Oct. 5, Baldwin announced what many have called an amnesty period, where fleet services employees were allowed to return items they had stolen without consequence.

Baldwin, who protested the one-week operation being called an “amnesty,” said he was surprised so much property turned up, including tires, equipment and materials.

“I felt it was a need, to mitigate the cost to the taxpayers because of the loss that was done,” Baldwin said. “We didn’t ask questions; we wanted the stuff back.”

Board members asked why further investigations were not performed after the items were returned.

“This stuff had been going on for years. Trying to weed through it was pretty much impossible,” Baldwin said.

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4 comments:

  • Viktor posted at 6:13 pm on Wed, May 8, 2013.

    Viktor Posts: 317

    Last council got away with paying the exiting city manager $750,000. No investigation or sensible answers were ever given why he was paid well above cost of buying out his contract. Theft in fleet services isn't right but thievery comes in many forms.

     
  • Max67 posted at 1:23 pm on Wed, May 8, 2013.

    Max67 Posts: 63

    Not only was he the only one who told on the police officer who was confirmed to have been involved, and who wasn't punished, but he told on a police officer during an investigation that was being run - by - the police. That would be why he was treated differently.

    Given the their wide range of power and authority and the sensitive nature of their jobs -
    the public needs to be able to have a lot of confidence in officers of the law. Why would we not hold an officer who committed such offenses accountable for his actions?

    I believe the answer ties to the motive for the investigation, an investigation conducted so sloppily that they gained no conclusive answers.

    The waste of the taxpayers funds for the investigation, the resulting meetings/meeting preparation, and the litigation (not to mention the potential financial compensation for individuals who were wrongly terminated and not even associated with the events) will probably cost the city more than the pieces of returned scrap metal and old tires - oh wait, they don't even know how much was taken. Really?

     
  • Eliza posted at 9:59 am on Wed, May 8, 2013.

    Eliza Posts: 897

    @ Baldwin, who protested the one-week operation being called an “amnesty,” said he was surprised so much property turned up, including tires, equipment and materials.---
    ------------

    I would have to disagree with Chief Baldwin not wanting to call the --- return stolen goods and there will be no punishment--- amnesty, since that's exacting what it was.
    The same as the returning of a past due library book during a period of amnesty, with no fines due. Except in this case,even with the amnesty allotted, not all stolen goods were returned, items that were stolen from the Killeen tax payers are still missing. And they value a lot more then a library book.--

    With a large number of the city fleet personnel involved (for years), and with a large part of them admitting (re: investigation) to a crime ,why wasn't more then John Acker punished ? Who made that decision ?
    In a recent KDH article ,that question was asked, and answered, that Mr. Acker was the only one who had named a KPD police officer as having had personal work done on private owned property. Which wasn't to be done. If that made a difference, only the ones who made that decision would know.

    Another expense that the tax payer has had to pay for because of the fleet thefts, due to what started out as the firing of Gonzales and Acker,is the use of the detectives time it took to run the investigation.
    The tax payer paid for that time, but even though the investigation shows it ended with admitted offenses from several, the tax payer ended up with only one being punished, and some of their tax payer property still missing.
    Crimes were admitted to by several,but No Charges were filed. And only one received any kind of punishment.

    What's really disgusting about this situation is the fact, this lax of an operation had been allowed to go on, for years as the Chief was quoted, all of it involved grown adults (not kids) who at least one of the bunch had to know, company time and company property are not to be used for personal gain or wasted. But yet it had gone on for years !?
    If this type situation has been going on for years in the fleet department, what else is going on through out city government ?
    I would think many would believe, it gives more credence to Ms. Gonzales charges stated, and involved, in the court documents of her Whistle Blowing case against the city.

     
  • gecko posted at 8:41 am on Wed, May 8, 2013.

    gecko Posts: 1

    They should ALL be FIRED...............