Investigation of missing evidence still ongoing

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A probe has not ended into missing evidence, including money and three cars, from the Selma Police Department in 2007.

Mayor George Evans said he has received an investigative overview from Chief William T. Riley III and will make it public at the next Selma City Council meeting April 14.

Evans made the statement during a meeting of the city council Public Safety Committee on Tuesday evening after Councilman Cecil Williamson of Ward 1 opened up the subject. Williamson attended the public safety committee meeting but is not a member.

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Williamson asked about several thousands of dollars missing from the evidence safe at the police department. The missing money was reported more than a year ago when now-Sgt. Jimmy Martin was police chief and James L. Perkins Jr. was mayor. Recently, Martin told the city council the state Attorney General’s Office was investigating the issue.

Riley told Williamson the attorney general would make no comment on the investigation. “I have no idea what person turned it over to them. That was before I got here,” Riley said. “Their policy is they do not comment on open cases.”

Williamson said he was sorry to put Riley on the spot for something that occurred a year prior. “But Chief Riley is the point man and needs to know what’s going on.”

Riley said he could not find a lot of documentation when he arrived. “We do know this,” the police chief said, “the cars were seized; the condemnation order sent it and the civil portion was not followed up on.”

Riley meant that the cars — a 1990 Honda Accord and a 1994 Chevrolet Caprice — were taken from two men charged with drug-related crimes. After their conviction, the police department filed papers to have the cars forfeited to the department, but the civil case wasn’t followed through.

“Somehow the civil process didn’t happen,” Riley said. “I don’t know who dropped the ball on that part.”

Councilwoman Susan Keith, who once worked for the prosecutor’s office in Dallas County, said she was appalled at revelations of missing cars and money. “I worked to get the drug task force started. I wrote the grant, and I know what it takes.”

Keith praised Riley for coming in and establishing policy. But she had harsh words for the prior administration.

“Everybody makes mistakes, but it shouldn’t be covered by a big, fat fib,” she said, adding that the city attorney and the drug task force evidently didn’t do anything to handle the situation or notify the city council.

“For two years,” she said, “this is not Riley’s fault, the city attorney knew, the drug force knew and the chief knew. I’m not sure if the council knew.”

Council President Dr. Geraldine Allen, who had served as a councilwoman the prior four years, assured Keith the council knew only what was told them at the time.

Said Evans, “Wait until we get the information. We will not solve this today. The chief gave me information pertaining to a detailed report. When we come back again, I hope to answer some questions. It’s a bad situation; a real bad situation that none of us here have had anything to do with.”