Committee meets to discuss details surrounding thefts

Published 9:18 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ward 7 councilwoman Jannie Thomas called a capital equipment committee meeting Tuesday to discuss recently stolen equipment from the city’s recreation department.

Instead of leaving the meeting knowing exactly what happened, she left still looking for answers.

Before the meeting started, Thomas and councilman Michael Johnson went back and forth about discussing the thefts in a public meeting.

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“I called this meeting because the public needs to know. This is tax paying citizens’ money that this equipment is being bought with and taken. I am doing my job as a representative over capital equipment. The public was not aware of this happening,” Thomas told Johnson.

Johnson said they should not talk about the thefts because of a pending investigation.

“It’s very sensitive. We’ve got to be careful with what we talk about on this here because it is still under investigation,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to be careful what we talk about because the media is here.”

During the meeting, Sean VanDiver, head of the city’s recreation department, was asked by Thomas what was stolen.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” VanDiver responded. “It was two zero-turn lawnmowers, and that’s all I can say until the Selma Police Department releases it.”

VanDiver said after the meeting the thefts happened around two weeks ago. It is unclear where they were stolen from, but Johnson indicated during the meeting they were stolen from the City-county ball park.

“He (VanDiver) told the guys on several occasions to bring the zero-turns [back]. Don’t leave them out there at the recreation department at the county and city ball park,” Johnson said. “But he did it again, and of course the stuff got stolen.”

VanDiver said the two mowers were insured. He also told the committee there was not a camera system in place where the mowers were taken from. Johnson suggested having one put up.

During the meeting, Thomas also asked Stephen Hendrieth, head of the city’s public works department, about lawnmower thefts.

Hendrieth said they had two zero-turn lawnmowers stolen in April or May. He said there were cameras in place, but they did not “pick up very well.”

“The investigation is still ongoing, but we did have insurance, and we actually got the money back,” he said.

After the meeting, Thomas said she still had plenty of questions about the thefts. She wanted to know why she wasn’t made aware of the thefts since she is the chairman of the capital equipment committee. She also wanted to know the value of the mowers that were stolen, as well as if there was any other equipment taken.

One of her main frustrations was finding out about the thefts on social media instead of being told about them by the department heads since she is the chairman of the capital equipment committee.

“The answers that were given to me today are really not the right information I was requesting,” Thomas said after the meeting. “When things happen with capital equipment I want to be informed. I don’t want to be the last to know what has happened.”

No further information about the thefts was provided. The Times-Journal will continue to make attempts to get more information on the thefts and the status of the investigation.