Thrown Chairs, Resignations, And An Envelope Full Of Cash Follow Exposure Of 2-Man PD's Acquisition Of $1 Million In Military Equipment
from the Thetford-Popcorn,-LLC dept
A lot has happened in the small community of Thetford since we last covered the two-person police department’s acquisition of $1 million in military gear through the 1033 program. It’s not all MRAPs and weapons, though. Apparently Police Chief Bob Kenny was grabbing anything that wasn’t nailed down, including a tractor, two Humvees, ATVs, a forklift, and any other supplies the federal government was agreeable to parting with.
The PD ran out of room to park/store everything, so it began dumping equipment “off-site:” on the private property of agreeable landowners. Things began to unravel when the town supervisor started wondering why the police chief had decided to turn the town into an episode of “Hoarders.”
The Genesee County Sheriff’s Department was called in to perform an audit but soon found it couldn’t do anything because there was apparently no paper trail. That appears to have been a case of the Thetford PD playing keepaway with documents, because the Sheriff’s Department decided to step things up in late April.
Officials with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant Thursday afternoon at the Thetford Township Police Department as part of an ongoing investigation into surplus military equipment.
Township Supervisor Gary Stevens confirmed April 26 investigators were “checking files and things” at the department as part of the search warrant.
“Files and things” are super-useful during audits. This decision to forcibly seize the paper trail was perhaps prompted by town residents’ sudden disinterest in acting as off-site storage for Chief Kenny.
Township-owned military equipment that was being stored offsite, including a Humvee, were left at the Thetford Township Hall over the weekend by a resident who was storing them.
Township Supervisor Gary Stevens said he knew about multiple pieces of township-owned military surplus equipment being dropped off outside the building on Sunday, April 22.
“I heard it was coming down the road,” said Stevens after a spirited township board meeting Monday night that included an exchange between the supervisor and one of the men — Eugene Lehr — who dropped off the equipment acquired by the township police department.
Spirited town meetings are now a regular occurrence. The first week of May brought the public resignation of one city employee (and two employees informing the town supervisor they could not work “under these conditions”) during a meeting featuring hurled invective/furniture.
A dispute that allegedly included threats and a thrown chair caused the township hall at the center of an investigation into surplus military equipment to close 30 minutes after it opened Monday morning.
The town supervisor claims Kevin Bloss handled his public resignation with “some profanity.” Bloss disagrees, stating he only said something that town supervisor Gary Stevens might have found personally offensive.
“I quit. You are an idiot and a deceitful person, I can’t work for you,” Bloss said he told Stevens.
At least one town employee has retained an attorney, which suggests litigation may follow the threats and insults.
The latest development casts even more doubt as to the legitimacy of the town’s PD and the guy running it.
Officials will discuss the future of the Thetford police chief after an envelope of money was discovered within township-owned military surplus gear being stored at an off-site location.
The possibility of reprimanding or firing police Chief Robert Kenny is set to be discussed after Supervisor Gary Stevens called for a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 2, after Kenny was unable to attend this week’s regularly scheduled gathering.
Kenny claims to have found an envelope of cash while moving 1033 equipment from someone’s private land. The envelope had “LESO” written on it and that Chief Kenny claims he has no idea how much cash it contained. He also didn’t seem all that concerned about claiming it. The town has turned it over to the Genesee County Sheriff as possible evidence in its ongoing investigation. Maybe it was destined for the acquisition of even more equipment, but the chief misplaced it in the piles and piles of 1033 equipment he’d already scattered across the town. It’s hard to believe the “LESO” on the envelope stands for anything other than the federal government’s Law Enforcement Support Office, which handles the paperwork for 1033 program acquisitions.
Meanwhile, town supervisor Gary Stevens and trustee Stan Piechnik have both been cited for criminal trespass as a result of their apparently uninvited visit to resident Eugene Lehr’s farm. Lehr had drawn the attention of town officials for his sudden return of PD/military equipment a couple of months prior — the stuff he dumped directly in front of city hall. Lehr claims he’s being harassed by some town officials and has spearheaded a movement to have the two men who trespassed on his farm recalled.
This small town of 6,800 may indeed have other issues that need to be dealt with, but the town supervisor appears to feel a 2-person police department currently under investigation for amassing more than $1 million in military equipment is just something to be gazed at in the rearview mirror.
“I’m like everyone else. I want to get through this and get to the real issues that the township needs to be taking care of,” said Stevens.
Quite obviously, Stevens is not like “everyone else.” This situation has exploded from questionable to contentious and now involves an investigation involving another law enforcement agency where a search warrant was obtained to secure records the Thetford PD apparently didn’t feel like handing over. To get everyone to move forward with their lives, the PD — and its support in town hall — need to be reined in and every dollar spent or earned accounted for.