Investigation of mechanic leads to Duncan
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
Crockett City Councilmen Chris Gunnels and Robert Meadows started reporting concerns about questionable activities at the city maintenance shop to the Crockett Police Department in February, and those concerns led to a police investigation, the resignation of two city employees, and requests by the two councilmen for two special called executive sessions. No criminal charges have been filed at this time. One council meeting took place March 18 after Gunnels made his second request and Meadows and Councilman Larry Robbins made a request. The city only schedules special called council meetings when three members of the council request them; however, the mayor holds the power to make an exception and call a meeting if fewer than three members make the request. The stated purpose of that meeting was to discuss City Administrator Ron Duncan's job performance, and the council met with Duncan and City Attorney Bill Pemberton for about one hour. Mayor Wayne Mask described the meeting as a "healthy discussion". In the past two weeks, Gunnels and Meadows each made two requests for a special called executive session to again discuss Duncan's job performance and calling for his termination. They made the current requests after the CPD suspended its investigation April 17 into allegations of possible theft of city time, equipment and supplies by one or more employees in the city maintenance shop. There also were allegations of possible violations of city policies. Police Chief David "Buddy" Cross said the CPD suspended the case so the information the CPD gathered could be turned over to Pemberton for the city's internal investigation. As long as the case was active, CPD could not release the investigative report. In addition to Pemberton, CPD forwarded the report to the District Attorney, the County Attorney and County Court at Law Judge Sarah Clark for their review. The councilmen expressed frustration that Mask has not responded to them, and both said Friday, May 3 that they will submit their third requests on Monday, May 6. "It's a touchy situation and at the same time frustrating," Gunnels said. "I'll file my third request Monday morning and will continue to do so until we have a meeting." Gunnels said his request will be the same as his previous two requests: "A special called meeting calling for the termination of Ron Duncan for cause." Both said taxpayers are asking, "Why hasn't it been placed on the agenda?", and so are the councilmen. "I'm very surprised that there's still no meeting," Meadows said. "I just don't understand." Robbins said he is not requesting a meeting at this time because he has not examined all the facts and is not sure it is appropriate to call for Duncan's termination at this time. He joined Gunnels and Meadows in requesting the first meeting because it was an evaluation and he believed the city administrator should be evaluated. Before he makes a final decision whether to request this third meeting for the purpose of considering termination of the city administrator, Robbins said, "I would like to see the complete investigation . . . I would like for people to have a chance to defend themselves." "I'd hate to destroy a man's career and his future because we rushed," Robbins said as he explained he feels he does not have enough facts at this time to make a decision. "As councilmen, we have a responsibility to do the right thing for the the people we represent," Robbins said. Robbins said he will study the facts and and pray about the situation before he makes a decision. "When I make a decision, I'm going to stick with it," he added. The CPD investigative report includes several sections describing the initiation of the case, witness and suspect statements, evidence and possible criminal charges. The introduction to the police report states an investigation into theft of city time, equipment and supplies was initiated about two months ago on city employee Alfred (Al) Miller, 51, B/M of Kennard. "Further investigation revealed other city employees may have violated city policies as well as penal code violations," the report states. Possible criminal charges include but are not limited to Theft-By a Public Servant, Abuse of Official Capacity, Unlawful Carrying a Weapon and Tampering with a Governmental Record. All charges range from Class B Misdemeanor to 3rd Degree Felonies. "During this investigation, statements were gathered from numerous complainants regarding violations of the Texas Penal Code. Due to the accusations being against employees of a governmental entity, the information was provided to Texas Ranger Andreas Delagarza. "Ranger Delagarza accepted the information for review and agreed to investigate the case if it led to criminal actions against any public officials," the report states. Additionally, the CPD Criminal Investigation Division met with local prosecutors in regards to the case. Both prosecutors agreed to accept criminal charges if proven to be substantiated through an in-depth investigation, according to the report. "It was agreed that the CPD Criminal Investigation Division would investigate the City of Crockett maintenance shop for possible criminal violations. It was also agreed that if the investigation led to City Administrator Ronald Duncan that the Texas Rangers would be contacted again to advise the proper steps to follow during the investigation," the report states. The report includes a detailed description of the City of Crockett Maintenance Shop, located at 2601 South Caddo Lane. According to the report, Gunnels filed an official complaint with the CPD on Feb. 11. He alleged that some city employees were stealing city time and misusing cityowned property and supplies. "Gunnels stated that during a routine visit to the City of Crockett Maintenance Shop he noticed a white, four-door Chevrolet truck parked inside the shop with the hood up. Gunnels questioned Alfred (Al) Miller about the truck as to whether it belonged to the City of Crockett. Miller told Gunnels that the truck did not belong to the city and that the truck was his personal truck," the CPD report states. "Gunnels also advised that on numerous other occasions there were vehicles located out at the city shop being worked on that did not belong to the City of Crockett." According to the CPD report, Gunnels described some of those vehicles as a black Ford Mustang, a green Oldsmobile and the previously mentioned white Chevrolet truck. "Gunnels also stated that on more than one occasion he (saw) Miller working on vehicles belonging to City Administrator Ronald Duncan at his residence. The vehicle was described as a white Ford Taurus. Gunnels requested that it be looked into for possible criminal violations," the CPD report states. The CPD report additionally states that Meadows went to the CPD and met with Detective Jerrod Vickers and Cross. Meadows reportedly advised Cross and Vickers that he had spoken with Marcus Horne, 32, W/M of Crockett, who works under Miller at the city shop as a mechanic. Horne agreed to speak with CPD detectives about information he had given Meadows. According to the report, "Horne stated that there has been a lot of stuff going on out at the city shop that was not right. Horne says that Miller for the last two years has been working on privately owned vehicles at the City of Crockett Maintenance Shop during regular city work hours. "Horne says that the work ranges from an oil change, air conditioning Freon charges, engine repair, engine swap, radiator repair and numerous other mechanical jobs. Horne told detectives that he has personally seen this take place with his own eyes and he knows that it is not right and knew that Mr. Duncan was aware of it." Later, Detective Clayton Smith was assigned to the investigation and asked to follow up on all the information provided. He began interviewing witnesses and on April 4 he made contact with Miller, the chief mechanic at the maintenance shop, the CPD report states. Miller agreed to meet with Smith at the Houston County Sheriff's Office. They met in the HCSO video interview room and HCSO Investigator Sgt. Randy Hargrove also was present. At that time, Smith reportedly told Miller about the allegations against him. The CPD report states, "During the interview Miller told Detective Smith that he did do work on privately owned vehicles at the shop, but they were always done on his lunch break and he used his own tools, parts and other material. "Detective Smith asked Miller about numerous vehicles that were known to be out at the city shop including the white Chevrolet truck and the black Ford Mustang. Miller stated that both of those vehicles were worked on at his residence and they were not worked on at the city shop. "Detective Smith noticed Miller was nervous and when asked about certain questions he would look up and away from Detective Smith as if he was looking for an answer to come up with. In particular when asked about the white Chevrolet truck and the owner's name, Miller began to look up and away from Detective Smith." The report further states, "Miller told Detective Smith that the truck belonged to his friend named 'Mike' but could not provide any other information about the owner of the truck; however, he was adamant that they were good friends. "Later, Miller was caught looking at Detective Smith's notes which included the owner's name of the white Chevrolet truck being Kevin Smith. Miller, a short time later, stated to Detective Smith, 'Oh, my friend's name is Kevin' and he is the one that owns the white Chevrolet truck." Miller further told Smith, according to the report, that he worked on the previously referenced Ford Mustang only at his residence. "Miller also noted that all the work done was known and approved by his boss, Ron Duncan. Miller was adamant that all work done on the privately owned vehicles was done on his lunch hour or after hours," the report states. "There were numerous other vehicles that Miller has done work on out at the city maintenance shop. Miller admits to working on several vehicles, but as stated earlier, only during lunch break." Smith spoke with another City of Crockett employee, Rodney Curtis, W/M of Crockett, a part-time mechanic helper or clerk. According to the report, Curtis reluctantly met with Smith at CPD. When Smith asked Curtis if he was aware of any work that Miller has been doing on privately owned vehicles, Curtis reportedly stated the only one he could verify was his vehicle and only after hours. According to the CPD report, "Curtis also stated that the only stipulation was that he provided his own parts and material and did not use any city owned supplies." The report continues, "Curtis stated that he didn't see a lot of what went on because he was only there 20 hours a week, so he usually left by 12. Detective Smith showed some pictures to Curtis of vehicles that were taken to the city shop to have work done on them. "Detective Smith asked Curtis about the picture that depicted a vortex cover and asked where it may have come from but he did not know. When asked about the white Chevrolet truck, Curtis stated that he did see it on the hydraulic lift inside the city shop. "Curtis stated that he (had) never seen Al work on the truck during regular business hours. Detective Smith asked how long the truck was left in the shop and Curtis thought it was at least through the weekend. Curtis was reluctant to answer questions and appeared that he was withholding information." The report then states Smith met with Horne at CPD to gather additional information regarding his knowledge of Miller's actions. "Horne was nervous and scared for his safety and feared that if Miller or Duncan found out he was telling these things that they would retaliate and he would lose his job. "Detective Smith reassured Horne that he would not lose his job for being honest and providing true and correct information. Horne told Detective Smith that Miller has worked on privately owned vehicles for at least two years and that he has personally witnessed this work," the CPD report states. According to the report, "Horne recalled the latest vehicle that was there was a white Chevrolet 4x4 truck . . . . Horne stated that Miller was doing some engine work on the truck and that it stayed there for a while. "Detective Smith asked Horne if he witnessed Miller working on the truck during normal working hours and Horne stated, 'Yes, sir, I have. There was one point that Al worked on the truck for a period of at least three hours while on the clock.' "Horne stated that the truck was at the shop for a long time and the owner was complaining about it taking too long." According to the report, Miller took the truck to a dealership outside of Houston County for the remaining engine work. The report then states in parentheses, "Possible charges of Abuse of Official Capacity Penal Code 39.02, Misdemeanor B – Alfred 'Al' Miller." The report continues, "Horne also stated that he witnessed Miller change the oil in his personal vehicle and use oil from the 55 gallon drums that belong to the City of Crockett to replace the oil in his vehicle." Horne also told detectives that "he didn't say anything to anyone because he has said things before and nothing has ever been done," the report states further. "(Possible charges of Abuse of Official Capacity Penal Code 39.02, Misdemeanor B – Alfred 'Al' Miller)." Additional information obtained from Horne, according to the report, alleges Miller worked on numerous vehicles at the city shop that were supposed to be done on his lunch break but actually were done during regular working hours. "Horne said that Miller has done approximately 10 engine swaps at the city maintenance shop and only two or three were done for city owned vehicles. It also was stated that he witnessed Miller perform numerous oil changes on privately owned vehicles," the CPD report states. "(Possible charges of Abuse of Official Capacity Penal Code 39.02, Misdemeanor B - Alfred 'Al' Miller)" The report further states Horne told detectives during the execution of the search warrant that he "personally witnessed Miller using city owned Freon on over 10 privately owned vehicles to charge the air conditioning system. Horne took detectives to west side of the shop and showed them a pile of empty Freon cans used by Miller. (Possible charges of Abuse of Official Capacity Penal Code 39.02, Misdemeanor A - Alfred 'Al' Miller)." Weapons Found The CPD report also reveals that when Smith and other CPD detectives executed a search warrant on the City of Crockett Maintenance Shop on April 8, the detectives instructed Miller, Curtis and other employees to exit the shop area. They were allowed to recover any personal items located in the shop office. "While in the office with Miller, Detective Smith observed Miller pickup a black bag to carry with him. Chief Cross told Miller that he needed to search his black bag before leaving. Miller allowed Cross to look in the bag and Miller then told Cross, 'Oh, I forgot I have a gun in there.' "Further inspection of the bag revealed a loaded Glock Model 21 .45 caliber handgun. The gun was loaded with eight rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. Miller was asked about the handgun and his response was, 'It is for protection.' The handgun was taken and made safe, then placed in Detective Smith's patrol unit. (Possible charges of Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon Penal Code 46.02, Misdemeanor A – Alfred 'Al' Miller)," the CPD report states. The report additionally states a search of Miller's vehicle also produced four weapons in the trunk: a .38 caliber handgun, a .22 caliber rifle, a .223 assault rife and a semi-automatic 12 gauge. According to CPD, Miller does not have a concealed handgun license and has no authorization to carry a handgun (at the city maintenance shop). Alleged Gas Theft The report also discusses CPD's findings regarding alleged theft of city gas. The report states Curtis admitted to taking five gallons of gas per week from the city pumps for two years, alleging Duncan and Mr. Cleghorn approved it Statements in the report indicate when Curtis was scheduled to go from part-time to full-time status, Duncan allegedly made arrangements with the head of an "Over 55" work program to maintain Curtis' part-time status another year. According to a witness statement, the report states, the five gallons of gas per week was approved to help supplement Curtis' income when he did not become a full-time employee as expected. "Horne said that when that started happening, Miller would walk to the gas pumps with a five-gallon can, pump the gas and bring it back to the shop where Curtis would have his car hidden in the shop. Curtis would then pour the gas into the car. "This was done because Mr. Duncan and Mr. Cleghorn told them to keep it under the table and not let anyone know about them getting the gas. (Possible charge of Theft by Public Official Penal Code 31.03, 3rd Degree Felony - Alfred 'Al' Miller and Rodney Curtis)," the CPD report states. The report further estimates the amount of fuel taken was 520 gallons and priced conservatively at $3 per gallon from Hubert Glass Oil Company. Those amounts totaled $1,560, according to the CPD report. Another city employee reported concerns about numerous engine purchase/repair invoices from LKQ North Texas over the past couple of years for purchases allegedly made by Miller. According to the report, only a couple of the invoices were for city-owned vehicles and the others were made for privately owned vehicles that Miller allegedly was servicing. "Most invoices were taken care of by Miller; however, there were one or two that were delinquent and the City of Crockett received numerous past due notices. "It should be noted that Miller was not being charged taxes on items being purchased or work being done by LKQ North Texas due to false pretense that the items were being done for the City of Crockett," the CPD report states. The employee who discussed the matter with CPD stated Duncan was advised of the past due notices and invoices at the time they were received, and that "Duncan advised he would take care of the problem, but it continued to occur until within the last couple of weeks after the investigation began. (Possible charges will be researched regarding these allegations.)," the CPD report states.