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TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2007
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Law enforcement seeks reimbursement for hearse

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

MOULTON — Law enforcement officials asked the Lawrence County Commission on Monday to reimburse the local Fraternal Order of Police for a hearse that county officials sold without the chapter’s permission.

The request forced commissioners to revisit the January incident that jeopardized police investigations, may have given criminals access to marked sheriff’s vehicles, and lost the Sheriff’s Department thousands of dollars.

‘Salvage vehicles’

After County Administrator Linda Harville ran an advertisement to sell “salvage vehicles” in the county lot, commissioners approved a bid for
$2,000 from Moulton resident Willard Cole without visiting the lot to find out what they were selling.

According to Sheriff Gene Mitchell, Cole drove off with 26 law enforcement cars, a running motor home with only 18,000 miles on it, a Department of Conservation boat and at least four privately owned vehicles.

One of those vehicles was a decades-old hearse the Fraternal Order of Police used for its annual haunted-house fundraiser, said Sheriff’s Department Investigator Lt. Tim McWhorter, president of FOP Lodge 325.

Halloween props

The group also lost Halloween props and costumes that were stored inside the car, he said.

“We wanted to see if the commission could help us solve this problem,” he said.

“If we could get the property back, that would be ideal, but we’re here to see what we can get for compensation. I’m in no way trying to exploit the commission, but I feel we have been somewhat exploited.”

Though the police officers hadn’t put on the haunted house in four years because of declining membership, McWhorter said they planned to bring it back this year.

He estimated the hearse, which Town Creek officials donated for the fundraiser, was worth about $300. McWhorter did not say the value of the other items.

Commissioners did not vote on the matter Monday but discussed it during an executive session following the scheduled meeting.

County Attorney Cecil Caine said that though the meeting did not involve “pending litigation,” it did involve “possible litigation” and was, therefore, a legal executive session as defined by state sunshine laws.

Chairman Mose Jones said the commission will consider McWhorter’s request and may have a decision at the Sept. 10 meeting.

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