State police will investigate expenditures a former Damascus police chief did not properly document at the 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorney’s request.
"I am writing to request that the Arkansas State Police initiate a criminal investigation into certain purchases made during the tenure of the former police chief of the City of Damascus," Prosecuting Attorney Luke Ferguson wrote in a letter sent to Col. William Bryant on Monday. "Documentation provided by Arkansas Legislative Audit has raised concerns regarding a number of credit card charges that appear to have been made by the former police chief."
According to the audit, a review of credit card purchases by the city’s former police chief, Rick Perry, revealed more than $9,000 of expenditures did not have any proof of validity.
Mayor L.B. Pavatt is now acting police chief for the city after the Damascus City Council voted to eliminate the police chief position earlier this year. Perry’s position was dissolved during the April 11 city council meeting.
The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee turned the 2016 audit report for the City of Damascus to the prosecutor’s office for review in September. Ferguson was appointed as 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorney by Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this month and made a determination Monday to request ASP to initiate a criminal investigation.
Ferguson’s letter to ASP Director Col. Bryant state’s the small town’s former police chief’s expenditures were concerning.
The audit committee reviewed purchases made by Perry during his tenure as police chief totaling $13,227. The purchases were made between Nov. 30, 2014 through March 26, 2017. The audit revealed $9,273 in expenditures that were not properly documented.
The audit report states that "without adequate supporting documentation, we were unable to determine the validity of the following purchases:
· $2,973 for unknown items, primarily purchased from Amazon.com and Walmart.
· $2,400 for grocery items.
· $2,089 for restaurant meals, most of which were in or close to the City.
· $688 for clothing/shoes.
· $596 for postal services.
· $332 for household items.
· $195 for miscellaneous items."
Ferguson also addressed concerns for two pieces of equipment Perry allegedly sold without authorization.
"Additionally, the audit report indicates that body armor and a ballistic vest that were city property were sold by the police chief to two former police officers, which may have been in violation of Arkansas Code § 14-58-306," Ferguson’s letter reads. "I also ask that this action be included as part of the investigation."
According to the audit report, a piece of body armour was sold for $300 and a ballistic vest was sold for $250.
These were sold "without proper authorization from the Council, as required by Ark. Code Ann. § 14-48-306" to two former Damascus officers, the audit report states.
Damascus City Attorney Beau Wilcox said the mayor and city council members would support any criminal sanctions the prosecutor’s office or other investigators may deem necessary following the review.
"I believe this is a prudent decision based on the information we received from Legislative Audit," he said Tuesday. "The City of Damascus is in favor of any decision that helps bring this matter to a resolution."