Former Whitwell police chief and city recorder charged with theft

Former Whitwell police chief and city recorder charged with theft

August 12th, 2011 by Ben Benton in News

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/Times Free Press.

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.