GBI Trying to Find Missing Tennille Flower Fund
TENNILLE, Ga. (AP) _ The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been called in to help find out what happened to a $1,000 fund that police used to send flowers to the funerals of prominent citizens or to hospitalized officers.
Assistant Police Chief William Cheely and Officer Larry Sheppard were suspended for insubordination Aug. 20 for refusing to say why the Tennille Police Department Flower Fund bank account was closed and where the money was being kept.
Police officers said the fund was set up about eight years ago and was financed from re-arrest fines, the $35 fine imposed when a defendant failed to make a scheduled court appearance.
Mayor W.C. McMaster and the six City Council members all said they knew nothing of the fund until Patty Burgamy, who has been clerk of this central Georgia city about six months, was asked by Cheely to turn over a re-arrest fine.
She refused and asked the City Council what to do.
″We weren’t even aware that there was a fund,″ said McMaster. The council asked Police Chief Thomas Smith, who took office Aug. 13, to take the flower fund money from the private account and put it in the city’s general fund.
Smith found the bank would not tell him the balance and that Sheppard and Cheely were the only people authorized to write checks on the account.
″Cheely told me that I would never get the money,″ Smith said. ″He said he was tired of me asking about the flower fund.″
Then he found the account had been closed.
″There hasn’t been any wrongdoing on my part or Sheppard’s part,″ said Cheely, who also serves as chief of police in nearby Harrison.
The amount of money in the fund never exceeded $1,000, according to Cheely.
He said he and Sheppard did not want to turn the money over to the city because officers wanted a discussion between the department and the City Council over the future of the fund.