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Stories Added - March 2010
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Former Trinity city manager pleads guilty to $4,090 theft
Polk County Enterprise
BY GREG PEAK
Area News Editor
GROVETON – Former Trinity City Manager Phil Patchett entered a guilty plea last week to charges stemming from the theft of $4,090 in city funds. During a March 16 hearing in Groveton, Patchett entered the plea as part of an agreement worked out with District Attorney Joe Ned Dean in which he agreed to repay the city $5,230 in restitution. The payment covered the stolen money as well as the cost of a special city audit. Interim City Manager Buddy Drake confirmed Monday that the city already has received the payment from Patchett. As part of the plea bargain agreement, Patchett received deferred adjudication and was placed on probation for two years. Deferred adjudication means that if he successfully completes his probation, the conviction will be dropped from his record. In addition to the restitution payment to the city, Patchett also paid a $1,000 fine and will be required to perform 80 hours of community service work. According to Assistant District Attorney Benny Shiro, the theft charge to which Patchett pled guilty was classified as a state jail felony which carries a possible punishment range of six months to two years in jail. The theft of city funds by the former city manager came to light on Feb. 16 when Patchett called Trinity Police Chief Steven Jones to apologize for the theft. During that call Patchett reportedly said he had taken an overdose of prescription drugs but refused to tell Jones or other city officials where he was located. While Jones and others, including Mayor Lyle Stubbs, kept Patchett talking on the phone, a search was launched in an attempt to locate the city manager. He was found a little over an hour later by Trinity firefighter Scott Womack in an undeveloped area of the Trinity Cove subdivision east of Trinity. At the time he was found, Patchett was sitting in his personal vehicle and was unresponsive and almost unconscious. He was subsequently rushed to East Texas Medical Center- Tyler and recovered. After being released from the hospital, Patchett formally resigned as city manager. Drake, who served as the Trinity City Manager from 1978-1992, agreed to return to the post on an interim basis to give the city council time to decide what course they wanted to take. One of his first actions as the interim city manager was to help organize the special audit of city finances and to help organize changes in the way the city handles its cash. The major change was a requirement that a nightly bank deposit be made to ensure that cash was no longer allowed to accumulate at city hall. During the March 11 meeting, city council members were surprised to learn nightly deposits had not been made by the city since Patchett took over as city manager in 2003. It was believed that the accumulated cash left overnight in the city hall was taken by Patchett and gambled away. Drake has said that restoring the public’s trust in the way the city handles its money is a priority task and a number of changes in policy and procedures have been put in place to safeguard those funds.