published Friday, August 12th, 2011

Former Whitwell police chief and city recorder charged with theft

In this file photo, former Whitwell Police Chief Ronnie Davis. Davis has been arrested on theft charges over use of city credit cards for personal purchases.
In this file photo, former Whitwell Police Chief Ronnie Davis. Davis has been arrested on theft charges over use of city credit cards for personal purchases.
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Former Whitwell, Tenn., city recorder Robin Nipper and former police chief Ronnie Davis Jr. are accused of charging thousands of dollars on city credit cards for unauthorized personal purchases, according to state comptroller's office officials.

Nipper and Davis were arrested Tuesday on indictments issued by the Marion County grand jury charging them with felony theft in connection with an investigation by the Comptroller's Division of Municipal Audit, authorities said.

Each is free on $10,000 bond and set to appear in Marion County Circuit Court today for arraignment, jail officials said Thursday.

Neither Nipper nor Davis could be reached for comment.

Comptroller's office officials state that Nipper used a city credit card issued in her name at stores such as GameStop, Aeropostale, Hot Topic and Dish Network, and also made more than $9,100 in online payments on the cards from the city's bank account.

Davis made more than $4,500 in personal purchases at stores such as Abercrombie and ACT Programs on a city credit card issued in his name, officials state.

Nipper reimbursed the city for some of the charges, while Davis repaid the city for his personal charges before the investigation was completed, officials state.

Authorities say Davis admitted to state auditors that he made the purchases on the credit card, but claimed Nipper authorized him to make the purchases as long as he paid them back.

Nipper denies his claim, officials state.

Assistant District Attorney Dave McGovern said Thursday that the theft charge against Nipper is a class C felony with a potential sentencing range of three to six years. Davis' theft charge is a class D felony, which carries a possible sentence of two to four years, McGovern said.

Officials said the comptroller's report will be released in a few days and also will highlight a number of issues regarding the way the city's finances were managed during the audit period, July 1, 2008, through Oct. 31, 2010. The report shows how the city failed to adopt purchasing and credit card policies, failed to adequately separate duties among city personnel, failed to provide documentation to support disbursements and paid more than $2,200 for unnecessary Internet services.

City officials have agreed with the comptroller's recommendations and are taking steps to address issues identified in the report, officials said.

State Comptroller Justin Wilson said the arrests should be a "cautionary reminder" to other communities about the importance of adopting proper management procedures.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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328Kwebsite said...

It's not illegal to use a government credit card at those stores. It'd be more of a subjective matter: how essential were the goods or services that were purchased?

We do not know what was bought or what the items were used for. Unless the State Comptroller can clearly state what was inappropriate about what they did, then what he's done is underscore the fear of prosecution that many government credit card holders have. Making people afraid does not ensure that they will be in compliance with the law. Anyone who's been directly responsible for cash or credit in government knows that there's some vulture waiting in the wings to throw someone in jail. That, by itself, does not fix or prevent problems.

August 12, 2011 at 1:36 a.m.
shortkneehem said...

It's not illegal to use a government credit card at stores such as Aeropostale and Hot Topic? What could the government possibly need from Hot Topic? It's like trying to say that Nipper went to Aeropostale and bought a scarf for the entire government. How could anyone try to maintain that it's not inappropriate to make personal purchases with government money?
Whoever the "vulture waiting in the wings" is sure doesn't have to look very hard for its prey in this case.
Punishing people who wrongfully use what are already limited government funds is definitely a problem-solver. It is unacceptable and unethical, and it's people who don't see that who cause these "vultures" to have to regulate on such stupidity.

August 12, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.
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August 12, 2011 at 11:17 p.m.
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